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Thinking big: The London Marathon
Thinking big

Making lasting changes in the way you work, think and live is easier when you put small changes in a large context. In other words, you are much more likely to get what you want when you set bold, ambitious goals. In this article, David Thompson talks about his current goal of running the 2008 London Marathon and the alignment of daily behaviours and actions in support of major change.

Text David Thompson
Photography Courtesy
It happened in Prague. I was in the airport, staring into my third fast-food meal in as many days, when it hit me: I feel disgusting. The extra two stone I'd been lugging around for the last few years suddenly weighed down on me like a ton of fatty bricks. My ass seemed to spread out over the red formica stool and dangle over the greasy tiled floor. Each breath seemed to take an age and required a major effort. 'This ain't good,' I thought.

I mean, here I am, an executive coach, helping senior leaders in world-leading companies change the way they work, lead and live and I'm choking down another plate of deep fried rubbish. Moreover, I'm practically panting after walking up a flight of stairs.

There were plenty of good reasons for my being out of shape: no time to exercise, frequent travel, meals on the go, and the usual lack of sleep that goes with having young children. But the truth is that each of those reasons was only an excuse.

I had experimented with diets and gym regimens in the past often with fast, but short-lived results. Once the weight came down, I'd slack off, and I'd have it back within a few weeks or months.

What had been missing was a compelling, consequential goal.

So I've set one: I am running the London Marathon on 13 April 2008. I have confirmed a place on the Well Child team, and I've committed to raising at least 1,500 for the charity.
Not only have I made a private commitment to myself and a financial commitment to the charity, I have made a public commitment to achieving this goal. I recognised that my initial reluctance to tell friends, colleagues and clients about the Marathon was really an insurance policy for backing out. So I've begun my fundraising already and I'm letting people know that I am running. Eyes are on me. Most people are excited and encouraging. Some are sceptical. Regardless, their knowledge of my goal reinforces the internal motivation.

Perhaps even more importantly, the experience of training so far has made it clear how much easier it is to make real progress with small, incremental actions that lead toward a specific, realistic but ambitious goal.

Starting nearly a year in advance, I've had time to align small changes toward this ambitious target. I started with short jogs, following a training regimen established for non-runners. I've made changes in my diet to reduce fat and increase simple carbohydrates. And I'm drinking more water than I thought possible.

Training runs have moved from the 'have-to' list to the 'want-to' list and have recently attained 'Woo-Hoo!' status. My body has changed. Muscle has developed where before there was only flab. I am running longer and more comfortably each week. I still have a long way to go but with each run, the reality of completing the Marathon comes that much closer.

But this is a Coaching article not a running portal.

So the question. for people reading this now, is simple: What's your Marathon? What is the goal you may consider out of reach today? What is it you would love to have accomplished? What achievement will be a landmark in your life? What is it that 'part of you' has always wanted to do?

Say it out loud.

Write it down.

Commit to it, publicly.

Identify the action steps.


Record your progress.