“When I was lying in that hospital bed three years ago I made a promise to myself.
“Through the intense skill, dedication and discipline of living a horrendously poor lifestyle for many, many years I had brought myself (actually an ambulance brought me) to the cardiac care unit where I was now recovering from a heart attack at age 49.
“I promised myself that from this moment on I would dedicate myself with equal intensity and discipline to ensuring that I never return to this place again.”
That was three years ago and since then my friend Craig has worked exceptionally hard to keep that promise.
The day he was discharged from the hospital he set a goal for himself. He was going to complete a marathon within the next 30 months.
And what he set his sights on was not completing a marathon itself but rather the incomparable feeling of accomplishment that he knew he would feel once he, exhausted, crossed the finish line.
And that image in his head of him doing so, along with the feeling of triumph in his heart became the focus of his attention every day for the next 2 ½ years.
He described in detail both his embarrassment in frustration on his very first day in the cardiac rehab program that his physician had enrolled him in. He had barely been able to walk around the track before his breathlessness brought him to his knees. Two minutes later he found himself in the locker room, throwing up.
His immediate thought was to go home and forget this nonsense and then he remembered the image of himself crossing that line and he went back out and walked another circuit of that track.
Over the following months his walks around the track became interspersed with short, thirty second runs. Over time they became forty-five second runs and then one minute and then two.
And as he labored his way around the track he kept pretending that this was a marathon and he was on his way to that glorious feeling that awaited him on the far side of the finish line.
And one day he ran an entire circuit of the track without needing to slow down to a walk. Soon he was running two circuits, then three and then a half-mile and a mile and two miles all while basking in the anticipation of the feeling he knew would be his to enjoy at some point in the future.
Craig’s journey to the marathon was far from easy. Not only did he commit himself to track-time, with the help of a nutritionist he made massive changes to his eating habits and “went to the gym three times each week so that I could pick up heavy things and put them down again.”
Many times along the way Craig wanted to quit. His body fought back as hard as it could resisting the changes he was making, yet Craig never wavered from The Habit of Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize.
He began thinking of “crossing the line” the moment he set foot in a locker room and put on his track gear, and it was all he focused on during those many long miles on the indoor track and then on the streets around his neighborhood.
And as each day brought him closer to the marathon date the anticipation of the great feeling that would soon be his grew stronger and stronger.
And finally the moment he had worked so hard for, arrived.
On the morning of the marathon Craig woke up an hour and a half earlier than planned simply because he was “too excited to sleep.”
He had visited the finish line the day before and had created a perfectly accurate image of what it looked like. He spent the evening picturing himself crossing that line, his hands raised in victory and that feeling he had waited so long for, bursting out of his body.
He replayed the scenario so many times that he just knew that there was not a force on the planet powerful enough to prevent from achieving his goal the next day.
And he did. It took him nearly 7 and half hours to complete all 26 miles and 385 yards of the race and the exhilaration that he had waited so long for was everything he thought it would be – and so much more.
As he described the feeling of being on his knees with tears of joy pouring down his face and the look of pride on his wife’s face as she hugged him, the tears flowed again. I would be lying if I denied that some of the flowing tears were mine.
Craig used the incredible power granted us by The Habit of Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize to change his life in ways that most of us could never imagine.
He still runs every day, and lifts up and puts down heavy things at the gym, and makes a point of taking time to reflect with gratitude on all the great things in his life.
He explained it this way: “If you don’t keep your eyes on the prize, you will gaze at precisely the very place you don’t want to be.
“And that’s where you’ll end up.”
Powerful words from a man who truly walks (runs) the talk.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours now has its very own website. Please visit us at www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.
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