Quite some time ago long distance biking was my favorite way to clear my head and get some exercise. At one point I participated in long distance charity bike ride from North Carolina to Washington, DC -- 330 miles over four days. During the second day the odometer on my bike quit and since I was using that as my timepiece as well, I had little to gauge my progress. Toward the end of the day, one helpful soul decided it would be encouraging to write in chalk on the road, "You're almost there!" This was the century day, 100 miles. I soon learned that my definition of "almost there" and the chalk artist's definition of "almost there" was vastly different. I expected to hit the next turn and see the oasis of base camp. And eventually I did, about 25 miles later.
The last 25 miles of that ride were miserable for me. The terrain wasn't particularly difficult, I had plenty of water and snacks, and the weather was spectacular. But my expectations had been knocked out of alignment with reality. I lost my milestones, and therefore lost my ability to track my progress. I also stopped enjoying the journey.
I learned three things during those last 25 miles.
- Milestones and checkpoints are important. We need to take a moment to check that we are steadily attaining the goal. Identifying reasonable milestones that indicate progress, and putting regular checkpoints into place will allow us to reframe or reset our strategy. My checkpoint was to track mileage at the top of each hour and ensure I was maintaining the milestone of 20 mph.
- Communication is important. When I lost the ability to have my progress communicated, I became distracted. When I misinterpreted the message of encouragement from the chalk artist, I became discouraged. Communicating our place in the journey to results keeps us informed and motivated.
- Flexibility is important. There was no possibility of replacing my odometer, so for the remainder of the ride I dug out my watch from my gear and established a new system. It wasn't as efficient but it kept me from losing focus. There will be setbacks, but there's always another solution out there.
If we're not enjoying our journey, then it might be time to look at how we are aligning our expectations; then we'll truly know if "we're there yet."