Whenever I can, I enjoy mountain or ‘fell’ running, occasionally entering a mountain marathon. It’s great exercise and one can get a completely different perspective of the world from the summit of a mountain.
Many would think that running uphill is the difficult part, but that just takes a bit of fitness and determination. The skill is being able to run downhill effectively, and those who compete well do so, in part, for their ability to run downhill quickly.
The thing is, to run downhill quickly you must be prepared to let yourself go. You have to trust your body to do what it knows how to do naturally – to relax, to allow your feet to find your balance and the right place to land. If your muscles are tense, fighting against each step and with your mind fearful of falling, then your pace slows and you’re more likely to fall or injure yourself. Learning to run downhill quickly is about learning to get out of our own way.
This is true off the mountain too. I was coaching a young man the other day who was stuck in life and lacking in inspiration. Then I asked him, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” Without hesitation, his face lit up and he replied, “I would become prime minister so as I could tackle some of the world’s biggest problems”. He meant it too.
Becoming prime minister is well within this young man’s grasp, should he choose. Indeed, as we explored the possibility, he began to realise that the only thing in his way was his self-doubt and fear of failure.
This applies equally in business. Often, senior teams in organisations will declare that it’s not possible to change or do something differently – such as creating a culture based on Why the company exists rather than just focusing on What. And yet, when they start to examine the assumptions they realise that that’s all they are – assumptions. More often than not, when those assumptions are challenged, they melt away and a new reality emerges.
If humankind had been held back by fear and assumption, we would never have broken the sound barrier, put a man on the moon or seen the end of apartheid. We must learn to get out of our own way and, inspired by a higher purpose, learn to run downhill quickly. After all, inspiration, like gravity, is on our side – if we allow it.