It’s easy to feel movement, but vital to measure progress.
Your journey is far and perilous. Few individuals put in the effort or make the sacrifices, even fewer actually reach their destination. You’re running on an unconventional path—the road less traveled.
Your mind is clear, your determination unflinching, your goals in sight.
However as with anything, starting out cold turkey or going from 0 to 100 is generally not a brilliant idea. What you need…is training.
And what is great for training? That’s right, treadmills.
Now of course, depending on your goal, the type of training needed widely differs, and at least metaphorically speaking, requires much less than you would think.
Want to win the Boston marathon? Probably not a good idea to just “wing it” and see what happens.
Walking a 5K for charity? Probably not necessary to put yourself through a year of SealFit just to be sure you’ll be able to cross the finish line when the day comes.
On the same note, running 5 miles every day for four years (here we go again) just so you can enter a powerlifting competition doesn’t make much, if any, sense. (See what I did there?)
However, as important as different types, lengths, and intensities of training are to eventually reach your ultimate goal, often the most dangerous obstacle is also the hardest one to spot.
That is, recognizing that you’re on a treadmill when you think you’re running the race.
You’re at the starting line, you’re ready to begin the race, to make things happen. You may not be completely ready (no one ever is) but at least you’re not starting from square zero.
You start running.
You’re putting in tremendous amounts of effort. Straining as you push yourself further and ever faster. The sweat, the exhaustion, the burning, the sacrifice; none of it matter, you’re going to push through, you’re going to make it.
After a while, you find your stride, it becomes easier (not necessarily “easy”) to maintain the pace you’ve attained. You put your head down and keep moving.
Then, finally exhausted, you throw in the towel, and stop. Only moments later to look down and realize you’ve been running on a treadmill the entire time.
So here you are, tired, sweaty, exhausted, and frustrated—just like those crossing the finish line—but without the medal, the experience, the beautiful scenery, and all the other unexpected challenges and breakthroughs that make such a race worth running.
Sure you’re probably in better shape than when you started, slightly better prepared for an actual race, but your most valuable assets—time and youth—can never be replenished.
Training is important—there’s no doubt—but mistaking training for competing is deadly.
Staying busy, burning the midnight oil, checking off one more task as complete, staying extra for practice or working especially hard has become more of a badge of honor than ever before. After all, it proves that we’re hungry for it—that we’re willing to go the extra mile.
You constantly reassure yourself that you’re working harder than everyone around you (you probably are), that you’re ahead of the game, that you’re further than you’re supposed to be (Stop comparing yourself), that you’re making progress.
Yet, it’s this very work ethic—this crazy insanity and focus—that can blind us from the real prize and ultimately delay our efforts and waste what preciously little time we have.
It’s easy to feel movement, but it’s vital to measure progress.
Unfortunately the “treadmill of life” is a sneaky little bastard and will take every chance it can get to jump back into your life.
Trust me, I’ve lived it.
I’ve spent so many of the past few years in a perpetual cycle of preparation: Reading more than anyone I know, constantly researching and tweaking plans in the pursuit of perfection, and waiting for the perfect moment even when I know that no such thing exists.
Just a little closer…
Just a few more days
A couple more books…
One more training session…
Another blog article…
Then I’ll be ready to prove myself. Then I’ll be successful…
Only to realize I’ve waited far too long and spend way too many hours training when I should have been out running the race. Of course preparation is needed, but often much less than is apparent…or at least much less than you’ve convinced yourself is necessary.
How you measure this progress is subjective to your particular goal, but always comes down to being brutally honest with yourself.
Are you really in a better place or closer to your goals than you were a year ago? A month ago? A day ago? Or are you just spinning your wheels in an illusion of movement?
If you keep doing what you’re doing now, where will you be in a week? A month? A year?
Is that where you want to be?
Don’t stop training, don’t stop learning, but always be sure to measure. Look forward to where you need to be, determine out the milestones along the way, take action, and make it happen.
Whatever you do, don’t spend your life on a treadmill—spending all your heart, soul, time and effort, just to find out that you’re in exactly the same place you started…
Graham Mumm is the CEO and Chief Product Architect at Bilder Languages, a virtual education institution named “the greatest learning breakthrough since the printing press”, and LeanMill, a company reshaping global commerce through “Personal A.I.” He’s been to more than 44 countries, will soon be a hyper-polyglot, and spends his free time reading, tinkering, and exploring new opportunities and strange lands.