The Case for Pacing Ourselves

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We’ve created an unnatural form of running. It’s not just the shoes, but we run on artificial surfaces – straight ahead, hard and steady – instead of speeding up and slowing down, reacting to the terrain with changes of pace and rhythm.
Christopher McDougall

In the past year, I can’t tell you how many people have said to me that they are exhausted, overworked and stressed out. It feels like moving really fast is almost an obsession, as though we believe we must be constantly moving or everything is going to fall apart. I have a sense that we are so concerned that what we are doing might become irrelevant that we don’t stop to recognize whether what we are doing is actually working for us or against us.

A number of years ago I was on an interview in South Carolina. At the time I was living in Massachusetts. During the interview, the man I was speaking with made a comment that made me laugh and at the same time had a note of truth in it. He said that I might not fit into their environment. The reason he thought this was that he noticed that people from the North seemed to run in circles trying as many things as possible in order to reach their goal. He said that on the other hand, Southerners would sit back and observe for a long time and then finally make a move that would take them to their goal. He figured that it was because it was so cold up north that people ran in circles to stay warm. And in the South where it was hot, no one wanted to move unless it was absolutely necessary.

Of course, I don’t necessarily believe that weather was the reason for what he perceived as a difference in pace. Nor for that matter do I believe that one pace is better than another. What I do think is that it is important to pay attention to our pace: how fast or slow we are moving, what is causing us to move at that pace, and most importantly, whether our pace is benefiting ourselves and others.
Marathon runners will often share that in order to last over the long haul, and to eventually win the race, it isn’t always how fast you are going at any one time but whether or not you know how to pace yourself. On the other hand, they also say that breaking out of a steady pace from time to time and moving faster can help us to increase our ability to deal with more demanding situations.

Bottom line is that you want to find a pace that will allow you to keep moving ahead yet not get derailed because you are exhausted from too fast a pace or lose your momentum from too slow a pace.

So in this fast moving world, how do we figure out how to pace ourselves?

The main key, I believe, is to stay calm and peaceful inside ourselves, no matter what the situation. If we are able to stay calm, then we have a better chance of being able to notice what is working for or against us and to make adjustments in our actions that will better serve us.

Here are a few suggestions for staying calm.
• Take breathing breaks. It sounds strange, but when people are working hard they tend to breathe very shallowly. Try taking 3 long, deep breaths right now. Be sure to breathe fully, so that your belly and then your chest expand with your breath. Notice any difference? That strange feeling in your body – that’s oxygen. Isn’t it great how quickly we can feel better when we get enough air?

•  Go for a short walk. Walk around the building or even better, walk outside in nature. When we are in buildings all day and sitting at computers, we get so detached from nature that we can lose track of ourselves. There are a massive number of articles talking about how important it is to our health to get up and move at least hourly when we have a job that requires a lot of sitting.

• Turn off the phone, Skype, email and Internet. Planning time to turn off electronics can have a huge impact on productivity. Have you ever noticed how much more you accomplished on days when you had fewer interruptions? What would happen if you planned to turn off your electronics for a specific period of time every day?

Do you find yourself lying awake at night thinking of everything you need to do the next day? Do you check your emails the minute you’re out of bed? Do you often tell people how busy you are? There is a lot to be said for having a work ethic, but we all need a break.
Give yourself permission to take at least a few minutes every hour of every day to stop what you are doing and reset your pace. And if doing this seems impossible, then contact me and let’s have a virtual chat about how you can set a pace that will work for you and support you to

connect to your power,


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