A Coaching Power Tool Created by Rebecca Johnson
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
The Tortoise and the Hare
Most of us know the childhood story of the Tortoise and the Hare all too well. There they were, set up at the starting line, ready to take off and run the same race. The Hare looks over, sees the Tortoise, and laughs shrewdly under his breath.
“I’ve got this in the bag!” the Hare exclaims. “I’ve got skills, resources, and experience on my side. You don’t even have a fighting chance! Better luck next time, pal.”
As expected, when the firing gun goes off, the Hare dashes off in a flash of fury while the Tortoise does what tortoises do: inched slowly across the starting line – determined and deliberate, but relaxed and gradual.
We all know how the story ends. Mixed with exhaustion, distraction, arrogance, and a slew of other reasons, the Hare lost the race. He lost the race to someone not nearly as capable. In fact, from what he looked like on paper, the Tortoise probably shouldn’t have even been allowed to enter the race. But he entered.
And he won.
Was it because he was exceptionally clever and cunning, able to manipulate the situation and the Hare to benefit himself? No. Maybe he found all the right tools and resources along the way, giving him a special edge in the race. No, that’s not right either.
The advantage that the Tortoise had came wrapped in a package filled with patience, understanding, diligence, commitment, and fortitude. What seemed like a slow pace to the Hare was actually a healthy pace for the Tortoise. This pace gave the Tortoise the opportunity to use his strengths to his advantage.
Hit the Ground Running
Most of us can relate to the Hare in this story. We know what needs to be done. We know the skills that we bring to the table. And for the most part, we know what we need to do with those skills to complete the mission. When it’s time to start the race, we start out so well.
That firing gun goes off and we hit the trail running, determined to go as fast and as hard as we can until we reach that finish line. But somewhere along the path we run out of steam. We slow down to try to fill our lungs with oxygen again, but it’s too late – they won’t expand. So we stop, vowing to just catch our breath and then get back going again. That’s when we notice all the aches and pains caused by the damage that running full-force has done.
Suddenly, this is more than a quick stop to catch our breath. Now we have to move into damage control mode. Who knows how long this is going to take!
We end up stuck – Left behind.
But we tell ourselves that it’s okay because we are so far ahead of everyone else in the race that a little time to heal will not do a significant amount of damage to our progress.
Except there are things that we don’t understand.
What tends to happen is we get complacent, distracted, or just give up hope. When we take an extended break, we lose our passion and excitement. We tell ourselves things such as “Well, maybe I wasn’t supposed to be in that race to begin with,” or “I never really liked running anyway.” We often make it easy to simply walk away.
Sometimes, running – or going full-blast – just isn’t the best idea. Sometimes what we need is to slow down, relax a little bit, and walk.
It Might Be Time For A Walk
Walking can be quite beneficial for the body, the mind, and the soul. If we take a moment and observe the physical benefits that walking provides, we see that walking helps to increase our mental well-being as well as reduces our risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. See, taking a regular walk each and every day requires a deliberate, intentional act. It doesn’t take a lot of special gear, and a person could go walking just about anywhere they are. Walking also doesn’t require that the person be in peak physical condition or know all the latest techniques.
The trick to a successful walk is to just get out there and start walking.
It’s not complicated. It’s not scary. And usually, there’s almost no risk involved. So why is it that so many of us neglect this paced, healthy, deliberate mode of transportation? The answer could be rather complex, but let’s see if we can simplify it in a way that allows us to address the underlying cause. Taking a step back, we can observe how we can apply this concept of running versus walking inside of our daily lives.
The Impact of Running vs. Walking
In our lives, we often get the idea that if we can just hurry up and get through the different tasks, we can reach our goal faster and with more efficiency. Faster is better, right? The difficulty arises, however, when we speed through the process in such a way that we forget the more important things.
Self-care is an important aspect any time we are working on an extended project. An experienced runner would never just jump right into a marathon without proper preparation. They know that if their bodies have not been properly cared for in the weeks and months leading up to the race, they will not be successful. They would risk both extreme fatigue and injury. An experienced runner would also not start the race running at their fastest speed. They understand that it is not humanly possible to maintain that speed for any extended period of time.
A runner knows that an appropriate pace is key to their ability to sustain throughout the race.
The same truth is applicable to the different aspects of our everyday living. If we do not take the time for proper steps toward self-management and self-care, we risk both mental and physical burnout. We will not be able to sustain under the heavy pressures of our responsibilities.
When we slow down and allow ourselves both the time and the space to complete a mission, we naturally build into that space the freedom to take care of our bodies and our minds. This increases our endurance and allows us to continue on for longer periods. A rested, yet active mind is a healthy mind.
It is expected that the need for short bursts of running may come upon us during our walks, however these are not as likely to cause burnout in the same way an unprepared-for marathon would. This is especially true if the majority of our efforts have been properly managed, allowing time for effective self-care.
When a project is rushed, the quality of the finished product is almost always diminished in some way. It cannot be helped – it’s simply the natural repercussions of rushing through a task. A step gets left out, material is sacrificed, work is inferior, design is second-rate, or some other aspect of the project simply does not meet the original standard.
However, when we take the time necessary to ensure that we are producing the product that we originally set out to complete, the finale result could be even greater than we had initially imagined. See, by taking our time – carefully planned time, not procrastination – we are able to check the quality of the product as we go. We can stop along the way and ask questions about the production process.
- Is there a step that I am missing here?
- What resources do I have access to that will make this product better?
- Does what we are producing reflect the purpose, design, character that we initially had in mind?
With careful, deliberate monitoring, we can determine right away if our actions are ever taking us away from the original purpose. As we walk carefully through the process, we are able to catch problems before they get too far along, decreasing the time necessary for repair and recovery. As we reach the end of the process, we can be comforted knowing that we took all the actions we could have possibly taken to ensure that the product we were producing is the best it could be.
Ultimately, when we produce rapid, inferior work, our reputation takes a hit. Regardless of the product or service that we intended to create, the actual final product is what will be judged. It does not matter how we started or what we planned to do. It’s the end-result that leaves the lasting impression.
This reality is made quite evident in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. The Hare started out perfectly while the Tortoise left a great deal to be desired. In the end, however, it was the Tortoise that walked away with the respect and adoration of the crowd.
When we build a reputation that shows we can start well, but in the end we just cannot follow through, others will stop coming to us for help. We may lose customers, bids, employees, and maybe even close relationships. In the end, our reputation is all we have. If that is tainted by a consistent lack of follow-through, our entire lives could be impacted.
As the coach, we are called to help our clients create a pace that is sustainable for the full leg of their journey. When we sense that the client may be going faster than what he or she can sustain, it is our responsibility to highlight that observation to the client. They have come to us for just that kind of support. If we keep our observations concealed, the client may pay the penalty for that in the future. So how do we do that?
First, it is important that we understand the situation fully. Do we have all the details? Is there something we are missing? What is making this matter so urgent for the client? Is there a deadline, and if so, is it a self-imposed deadline or an external deadline? These and many other questions could help us to get a full understanding of the required pace for the client.
If the client determines that it would be beneficial to slow down the pace, we then help them discover different methods that would make that possible. Slowing down may simply be a matter of taking deliberate and slowed steps. On the other hand, the client may need to have specific conversations with other individuals to discuss impractical expectations versus the reality of the situation.
Sometimes, however, running cannot be avoided. It’s the nature of life. But that does not mean that the run has to be damaging to the individual or to the project. Running can in fact be very healthy when it is done appropriately. As the coach we must prepare our clients for those times when they are going to have to take either short or extended runs. We can help them see when there is a time coming where an increased pace may be necessary and give them the opportunity to make the appropriate plans and gather the essential resources.
Questions we could ask as we help the client prepare for the run might be:
- In what areas will you need to grow before your run?
- What tools will you need during this time?
- Who can you reach out to for support before/during/after your run?
In the end, it is the client who decides the most appropriate pace for themselves and the tasks at hand. We are there as a support structure to assist them in developing the best plan for the process. We serve as an external eye that is able to accurately reflect back to the client what we are seeing and hearing in their journey. An accurate reflection combined with a firm foundation built upon trust and integrity will hopefully allow the client to develop a pace that they are able to sustain for extended periods of time.
- As you reflect on this power tool, where do you feel like you need to slow down in your life or your business?
- What are some of the negative impacts that you, your work, or those around you are experiencing due to your rushed-pace?
- What techniques can you utilize to shift your energy from speed to quality?
- Where will you likely see the most benefit when you step back and refocus your energy?
- What structures can you develop that will help prevent the need for “the run” in the future?