By Michael Gunther

I don’t know about you, but I’m always trying to push myself to new limits in terms of knowledge or personal achievements. I don’t always achieve every new level I attempt, but when I do, the sense of accomplishment can be hugely overwhelming.

As some of you might remember, last year I had been training for my first half marathon. In life, unpredictable things happen that take us by surprise, and the week of the race my mom passed away. I missed the race entirely, and in fact, I stopped running and taking care of myself all together.

About five months ago I decided it was high time that I get back in shape and start not only eating healthier, but exercising as well. My sister, Nancy, was visiting and she looked great (she’d been exercising and had lost weight). She kind of laughed at me (as only a sister can) because I was the one who had inspired her last summer to get back into shape (she stuck with it and I did not). So the tables had turned and now she’d inspired me—challenged me—to get back on the healthy band wagon, and thus my odyssey began the 1st of March.

I know I need goals for exercising and losing weight. I have never been one of those people who exercise just to be healthy. Don’t get me wrong—I want to be healthy, but I need to work against something so I can measure my success. So, I decided to focus on a triathlon—a sprint triathlon as they call them—a ½ mile swim, 15 mile bike ride, and 3.1 mile run. I had never done one before, but the training for the half marathon showed me that I could train for a race like this if I had enough time. I also decided that since I will be turning 50 in August, I wanted to get back to the weight I was at when I was 30 (that meant that I had to lose about 40 pounds).

Fast forward to today. After months of prepping for the race and focusing on losing weight, I completed my first triathlon. The sense of accomplishment and pride was overwhelming when I finally crossed the finish line for which I’d been striving over the previous five months. My goal was to just complete it and to be able to cross this off my bucket list before I turned 50 in mid-August.

But a funny thing happened to me as I headed home that day. I realized that even though I’d completed this goal, I wanted to do it again next year because I hadn’t done my best preparing or training. The next day, when I heard the winner of the race was near my age and had completed the race in about 1/2 the time I did, my competitive juices started to flow. I know for sure that I could beat my time (which originally I didn’t care about) and train much smarter. For instance, I had been doing spin classes for 5 months, but only got on the road bike the day before the race. Swimming was definitely my hardest element—in fact the life guard actually asked me if I was ok (I’m a totally dorky swimmer). Now I know I could hire a coach, and maybe get in the pool more than five times prior to the race like I did this year. My list of areas for improvements continues to grow.

Bottom Line

This got me thinking that in business, sometimes we set goals to achieve, but are we really ‘training’ the best we can to achieve them? We may hit the outcome we were hoping for, but could we have pushed ourselves to an even higher new level?

I realize that pushing yourself to new limits or reaching for larger goals can be challenging. But when you accomplish them it’s invigorating, and also an opportunity to reflect on how to improve to begin your next adventure.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services.

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