Fighting Headwinds

I’ve been a recreational runner for the last twenty-five years. It all started with an invitation from a neighbor to run the Peachtree Road Race, a 10K, in Atlanta. In October 2010 I started logging my mileage and in the past decade I’ve now logged over 10,000 miles! I run very few organized races, so most of those miles are just me hoofing-it around my neighborhood. I like running as an exercise lifestyle because I can do it alone, it requires minimal equipment (good pair of shoes), and I can set goals associated with frequency or time. One thing I don’t enjoy is running into a headwind. I expend more effort to make progress, my pace typically slows, and my body starts telling me to quit and walk. 

Fighting headwinds is a common analogy used in business and life when we encounter unexpected conditions.  Overcoming them is both rewarding and a relief. In the Epistle of James, we read it this way “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James teaches us to look forward to trying-times. But the struggle headwinds of life are real and a struggle. 

Here are four ways I battle headwinds in running, life, business.

  1. Focus on pace – Headwinds typically force a slower pace and I work harder to maintain forward-progress. When running, I shorten my stride and focus on getting a little extra push in smaller compact movements. I consider the pace of my professional life to be the daily and weekly disciplines I perform to stay focused on assignments and personal growth. These represent my rhythm in life. So, it means I fight headwinds by keeping focus on key habits such as reading, writing, discussing topics with others, and reflection. Double down on the fundamentals!
  1. Pace with another – Birds fly in the V formation to be more efficient and conserve energy. Runners use this tactic as well when they let another runner set the pace and knock down some of the front wind. While it’s not always possible, sometimes when I face headwinds at work, I let a friend, family member, a colleague, or even an adversary help set the pace. In practice, this looks like someone advising me, praying with me, listening to me, or even shielding me from distractions. Life is like that, at some point I benefit from someone else knocking down part of the headwind, while at other times it is my turn to lead out front and help someone else.
  1. Look ahead for direction changes – When I face a headwind while running, I look ahead to understand when the road, and thus the wind, will change directions. This gives me a sense for how long the current battle will last. But this can also be dangerous because if the road doesn’t change direction for a while then it increases the intensity of the mental battle to maintain the harder pace.

In a professional setting, I look ahead by examining factors that create headwinds such as market conditions, project constraints, relationships, expectations, etc. Then I determine what is required to mitigate or eliminate those conditions. When I view risk mitigation and elimination from this perspective it provides an extra motivation to reach that change of direction to reduce the resistance of a headwind. 

  1. Keep the goal – Think about the end goal of the run, the business project, the relationship, etc. During my runs, I like to imagine myself at the end of the run enjoying a refreshing drink and feeling the emotional energy of a completed workout. For a business project, it means keeping the team inspired using the desired outcome of the project. For relationships, it means keeping myself motivated to maintain or create a better relationship with the other person. Better than focusing on the goal is keeping the goal. I keep the goal because it is the motivation for my why. I keep the goal because it means holding it closer to myself as within an embrace. That’s a powerful motivator against any headwind.

Onward and upward!