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Treadmill Syndrome
Many clients come to me saying they feel “stuck”, “running fast nowhere” or being “spread too thin” and struggling to “keep it all together.” These are all classic symptoms of the Treadmill Syndrome. I personally love the treadmill. Sometimes it’s the only option when the weather is bad, or it’s either too early or too late to run outside by myself. Yes, running inside I miss the beauty of the outdoors, and I probably don’t get as good of a workout, especially when I hold the bar while running. But in life, as in running, there are times when all we can do is just hold on to the bar and keep a firm grip to find and maintain balance.

When it feels like you are stuck on a treadmill spinning out of control, it may be the time to slow down and re-evaluate rather than try and push harder. When you are feeling stuck, or in a rut, remember it’s just a feeling. The best way to get unstuck is to take action, even a small step just to get going. Movement begets movement. At this point, any movement is a step in the right direction. It’s easier to change course when you are already moving and getting some momentum going. But to get free we need to look at the situation at hand to put the right action plan in place. Just like when getting a zipper unstuck. A zipper can get stuck for a number of reasons, so before we start tugging away, we should take a good look to assess what’s going on.

What do you do when you feel as if you are running all the time but not making any progress?

1. Are you stuck in fire-fighting mode?

When time and priorities are not managed well we tend to react to what seems to be urgent and then struggle to get to what’s important. Eisenhower’s decision matrix is a great tool to productive time management: Do the urgent and important immediately. Schedule the important but not urgent for later. Delegate the urgent but not important. Eliminate what’s neither urgent nor important. To be successful, know the difference between the two.

2. Are you having trouble saying “no”?

When you say “yes” to others, make sure it’s not at the expense of your own needs. To the people-pleasers amongst us this is easier said than done. But unless we own our choices, we end up stuck on the treadmill. When asked to help or do something, a good technique to use is to take a deep breath before responding; inhale and exhale 3 times and slowly count to 3 as you exhale. This will give you time to assess your own needs and consider how badly you’d feel if you don’t agree to help before you respond and make a commitment to do something. And remember Steve Jobs’ insightful quote about focus being all about saying “no” and choosing what we do very carefully.

3. Do you find it hard to delegate?

When it comes to delegation, we tend to act against our self-interest. Delegation doesn't come naturally to most of us. “Treadmill regulars” are often reluctant to delegate work. When you are consistently doing what others should be doing, you are holding yourself and them back. To effectively delegate tasks to others, you must overcome your anxieties about relinquishing control. Often we make the excuse that it is quicker to “just do it” than explain what needs to be done or how to do it. This might be true in the moment, but over time learning to delegate is an effective time-saving strategy. But it does require letting go and trusting that others can complete the task successfully. They may do so in their own unique way and possibly not as good as you could have done it yourself, but there is simply no excuse to deprive others of critical learning opportunities.

4. Are you striving for perfection or excellence?

They say that perfect is the enemy of good. I’d add that it’s also the enemy of well-being. In business, perfection is the enemy of profitability and success. We should hold ourselves to high standards and continually raise the bar but only when we excel in what really counts. There needs to be a clear ROI when choosing “perfection” over “excellence.” It happens, but not that often. The investment of time and efforts must lead to a positive impact and greater value; otherwise aim for “good enough.” Haven’t you heard? Good enough is the new perfect.

In life, it is often the path of least resistance that helps us move forward. And we get to set the pace as we run, walk, or skip along the path. What does “moving forward” mean to you?

Write down what you most need right now
Commit to doing 3 things this week that will move you toward your goal
Celebrate your first small success
Can be relatively compared to the rat race?

Mess with the best, die like the rest.

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