Where’s your finish line?

A finish line is permanent; it’s the stake in the ground that doesn’t move. It’s that point of no return that gives us power and authority to do better than we ever thought was possible.

I had the opportunity to meet Alison Korn a number of years ago when we were working on a video for Microsoft. Alison was a Canadian Olympic rower and I asked her, “What was it like rowing in the Olympics?” She said, “It’s funny, even though we practiced for years, we couldn’t find the passion or the energy until we saw our finish line. But when we knew we were a thousand metres from the finish and that everything we worked for would be lost, we found passion and energy that we never thought we had.”

I remember that race. Alison and her partner went from forth to second and they narrowly missed winning the Gold.

How is it that the losing team often monopolizes the final minutes of a sporting contest? They know if they don’t get the puck in the net, the ball in the hoop or score that last minute touchdown, everything they have worked for will be lost. Why they didn’t figure it out earlier in the game? They just didn’t see their finish line.

I know that most of us have goals and objectives and we write them down faithfully every year, but do we treat them like a finish line or do we allow ourselves to defer them, reschedule them or forget about them completely? A finish line is permanent; it’s the stake in the ground that doesn’t move. It’s that point of no return that gives us power and authority to do better than we ever thought was possible. For most of us we need the finality of a finish line to open up and really make things happen. We see it in business all the time, a sales rep waits until the last quarter and then starts pushing themselves in order to achieve their quota. Companies allow their accounts receivable to get wildly out of control and then they scramble, trying to collect it all in one day. Relationships that have failed for years try to repair themselves in the final hour to avoid breaking up. We put off buying life insurance until we are old enough to believe we actually just may die some day? My point is, if we don’t have that point of finality few of us ever move forward.

So where are your finish lines? Do they even exist? Are you treating your goals and objectives with the “finish line” discipline that you need? If you watch successful companies you will notice how they create finish lines long before they are forced upon them. They are proactive vs. reactive when it comes to achieving the things that are important to them.

One of the reasons we drift away from achieving our goals is because the target is too far out in the distance and it is hard for us to create the urgency we need. Have you considered breaking down your goals into smaller manageable chunks that you can focus on now instead of sometime off in the distant future? One of the unique characteristics of our brains is that it works in the here and now. Your brain doesn’t know how to work in future tense. People who are “going” to start losing weight are still fat and will likely stay fat until they say I am losing weight now.

The pain pleasure principle states that we are attracted to pleasure and we avoid pain and when the two come in conflict the avoidance of pain will win out. This is why we need to commit and set finish lines. If we don’t we defer, postpone and put off until we are cornered and trapped.

This month take the time to go through your goals and commitments and start defining your finish lines. When will you do it and will you commit to it? Great runners spend their whole career focused on the finish line. However, here’s an interesting twist, a great runner knows that the finish line is really only the half way point and if they really want to win the race they need to be accelerating when they cross, not starting to slow themselves down.

Curt Skene