"I dare you to train for a marathon, and not have it change your life," said runner Susan Sidoriak. It's a sentiment Kate Sherburn, Head of Legal at Who Gives A Crap, can appreciate because that's exactly what has happened to her. Making the decision to train for a marathon has changed Sherburn's life, and not necessarily in ways she was expecting.
When Sherburn set out to run a marathon she first had to conquer a mental marathon. She was flying in the face of convention as Counsel don't generally work less to run more, and she was concerned that all the training and resulting fatigue might negatively impact her performance at work. But she was in for a surprise. The processes of training, planning and recovering for a marathon have taught her many life lessons and rather than feeling drained she feels reinvigorated and nourished.
There is no ‘work self’. There is a myth that people can place themselves neatly into two camps - ‘work me’ and ‘home me’. Sherburn's rigorous trainings showed her that 'work self' is not something that can be boxed in. After an arduous training session, she needed extra time to decompress before adopting work mode. There was no ‘running Kate’ and ‘work Kate’, there was simply Kate.
The lesson was reinforced by her recovery sessions. If she lagged on one, the knock-on effect was its impact on her next run. It struck her that there was an overlap between training and life. “There are no shortcuts. I’m doing something so physically demanding that I have to look after my body. This includes upping my Pilates, eating better and going to myotherapy sessions before I develop any problems. This can be so easily applied to my work life – we have to look after our whole selves before any problems arise, otherwise we can’t perform at our best professionally.”
Look after your whole self. Having dispelled the myth of the work self, it is important to acknowledge that you come to work as a single holistic human being. Balance is vital to your wellbeing. Too much emphasis on your work and the parts of you that aren’t involved in work suffer; the same can be said for the reverse.
Sherburn's endeavor illustrates the importance of having out-of-work goals. In Sherburn's case, not only has she improved her health and fitness, but she has also started to nourish the part of herself that as Counsel she was inclined to neglect. For her it was deciding to train to run a marathon, but the form doesn’t matter. Working toward a goal that is important to you makes you feel fantastic and it will positively impact all aspects of your life.
The importance of space and time. Taking a step back from a complicated problem can be the best way to arrive at a solution; sometimes what is needed is time and thought.
For Sherburn, running provides the perfect opportunity to mull over complex work issues. “I’ve come up with some very creative solutions to work problems while out running. My mind wanders - perhaps as a distraction from the actual running - and more than once I’ve emailed myself whilst out on a run to make sure I don’t forget the thought or idea I’ve had.”
In the same vein, working toward an external goal enables you to create pockets of time where your only focus is on the pursuit of that goal. During that period, personal troubles and/or work problems tend to melt away. Later, when you're refreshed, you are able to return to them.
Non-work goals are vital to feeling fulfilled as they provide opportunities to recalibrate or escape from work and life issues. Taking time out means you can later address problems with a fresh perspective. Non-work goals help nourish you and provide balance.
Most importantly, having external goals helps to frame you as your whole self, enabling you to better understand your needs and how best to cater to them.