What running has to do with career goals (Hint: a lot!)

Eight months into her newfound passion, an MBA shares her thoughts on the connections between two different kinds of marathons—on the road and in your professional ascent.

Eight months ago I started running.

I used to dislike running and never quite understood what people would see in it—until I started.

Now I can’t go a single day without squeezing in a run. I want to know all there is to know about becoming a better runner—training techniques, nutrition, equipment, the whole shebang.

As I dug deeper into the world of running, I realized that many of the tips and guidelines I was finding out there could be applied to my own career.

Let me explain.

The difference between a marathon runner and a couch potato is that one day, the runner decides to step out the door and take a walk, maybe a walk/run, and then a jog, followed by a short run, and all of a sudden a one-mile walk has turned into a three-mile run.

If you look closer, that’s what successful people have in common: hours and of hours of hard work and dedication. No silver bullet nor magic spell will do it. It must start with you. No way around it.

Here are some career tips straight from the world of running:

Wiggle those toes

When choosing your running shoes, make sure they’re a bit wider and longer than your feet. That’s because as you run your feet will swell and need some wiggle room.

When applying for a new position, make sure you can grow into it. I always like to think that the perfect fit is the 50/50 one—50 percent what you bring with you and 50 percent what you learn from it. Everybody wins.

Face traffic

This rule can literally save your life. Running against traffic helps not only you see what’s coming but also lets oncoming traffic see you.

When trying to advance your career, keep both your eyes open: What changes is your organization is going through? Is the industry facing new challenges? Could new technologies help you become more efficient? How can you add value in a constantly evolving environment?

Don’t let change catch you off guard-rather be part of it. Better yet, drive it.

Keep pushing beyond your comfort zone

After training a while, those 3.1 miles will feel easier and easier to achieve. It’s a great feeling, but here’s the catch: Running 3.1 miles forever will not get you the endurance to run that marathon. You must keep pushing.

A point comes in our careers where we all feel comfortable. Your opinion is respected, you have a lot of autonomy and you no longer have to ask for permission to take action. However, dealing day after day with the same old issues doesn’t lead to innovative thinking.

To shift your mindset and grow, you have to be challenged. Don’t be afraid to go that extra mile and enter uncharted territory.

Hills are your friends

Hills are a nightmare. For a beginner runner like me, they are intimidating. I never know if I’ll be able to make it to the top. Nevertheless, I always try and almost always make it.

Here is the thing—hills are inevitable. So you might as well face them and collect the rewards. Hill running makes you run faster and improves your form and your endurance.

In your career, you will have to deal with bad managers and difficult assignments, but what you get from it is up to you. Some of your greatest lessons may come from it—your approach is what will define your success or failure.

Celebrate your success

You ran that marathon, so now what? Take some time to celebrate.

Pausing to acknowledge your accomplishment is as important as achieving it. Moving forward without a sense of progress can make your successes feel meaningless. Use this as an opportunity to revisit your aspirations and set new goals.

So, go ahead. Don’t be afraid of trying new things, pushing harder and going the extra mile. If I can do it, you can do it.

A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.


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