Running with Purpose

I don’t like running. I don’t find it as enjoyable as some do. It is drudgery. It’s boring. It is monotonous.  It seems to have no purpose. You run and end up right back where you started. Worse than running is running on a treadmill — talk about a rat on a wheel! The only reason I run is because of the fitness results it produces. But, that all changed this month. I ran (well jogged really and some would probably describe it as plodding) the first 5K I have ever enjoyed. I had a blast! Here is why this run was different.

I ran with purpose

I wasn’t running this weekend to achieve a goal or to get a good workout. I was running to support the son of a friend of ours who has cancer and is being treated at St. Jude in Memphis. The race this weekend was to support all of the great work that St. Jude does for children as well as community support for our friends. Having this purpose completely changed my perspective on running. It was no longer about me. It was about something bigger.

I was grateful

Anytime I felt like stopping or I was uncomfortable, my mind immediately flashed to our friends son and how much he was dealing with. My discomfort paled in comparison. How many kids and parents in that hospital would do anything for the opportunity to run with their family like I got to that morning? All of them. That perspective change made the miles melt away.

I did it with community

Running with my wife and two of my sons was a great opportunity to connect with each other. Shared activities create memories. We also got to connect with other people on the team, some we knew, some we didn’t, but we were all bonded in a common purpose (and person).  I also enjoyed the pride of my boys accomplishment of finishing the race. I relished in the life lessons received from that day.

What was true for this race, is true for our careers. Re-read the first sentences of this post and substitute “running” with “my career.” Does it describe how you feel? I know I have been there many times.

If we don’t have a purpose that is greater than ourselves, our focus becomes inward. We focus on our “pain.” “I am tired.” “I am out of breath.” “My knee hurts.” “I don’t like my boss.” “I don’t like my company.” “I hate doing documentation.” When we focus on ourselves, we miss all of the wonderful opportunities to fulfill a greater purpose.

That inward focus can also steal our joy. If we take a moment to find things to be grateful about our job, it can dramatically shift our perspective. No matter our situation, we have things to be grateful for. That gratefulness can transform our mindset, just like it did for me during the race.

As I reflect on some of the best times in my career, it was when we had developed a community of people who were sharing life together, not just working. The “job” was almost ancillary to what we were doing. We were learning together, helping each other, and sharing life together. Your first reaction might be “I would love to have that at work Phil, but my co-workers aren’t that way.”

Well, I hate to say it, but the culture you want has to start with you. It has to start with you and with no expectations of reciprocation. By seeking the welfare of your company, co-workers and patients, you will find that you will thrive as well (this is not a new concept by the way).  Those seeds can take a long time to germinate, but they usually do. Even if they don’t, you have changed your perspective which can be one of the most freeing results.

So go ahead, reconnect with your purpose, start and end the day with 3 written gratitude statements, and do things each day to develop the community around you. Your hard work in this area will be rewarded.

By the way, if you would like to support St. Jude and the great work that they do, click here


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