Be a Furniture Mover – Visualize and Rehearse Success

I learned a valuable lesson running my first 10K.

Matt McWilliams 10K Race

Prepare well, know your surroundings in advance, and repeatedly rehearse what success looks like.
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As I rounded the last turn into the baseball stadium, I suddenly realized that I only had 0.1 miles left.

That is usually good news but the problem was that I thought I had another 0.5 miles left. I had a goal time of 62:30, just over 10:00 miles. I finished in 63:52. One of the biggest reasons I finished so much slower was that I was still pacing myself at the 6 mile mark when normally I would have cranked it up.

When I was training, I repeatedly ran in the same two places. I knew every inch of those two paths. I knew every mile marker, quarter-mile marker, and I knew exactly when to kick it into high gear for the finish in order to finish in my goal time.

But at the race, I did not know where I was half the time. I had failed to map out the course, and particularly failed to know the last mile. I had no vision of what it looked like to finish or where I would need to start my push to the finish line. Unlike my training, where familiarity allowed me to time everything perfectly, I was essentially running blind…and completely misinformed.

When we turned into the stadium, I thought we were running around the stadium, at least another 0.25 miles. Before that, when we turned down on street, I thought we were heading straight. And so, there I was still plodding along when I should have been pushing myself. I spent much of my mental energy trying to figure out where we were going instead of focusing on my speed.

Lily Kreitinger recently wrote a series on public speaking, which I highly suggest reading (Go to part three and it will link to the other parts). In part two, she writes about an experience dealing with an unexpected set-up:

When I arrived at the school, I expected a gym set up with tables and chairs. I had small group exercises to conduct and handouts to follow along. However, I got to the location and was a little surprised to find out that the training was being held in the school auditorium with theater-style seating and a big stage!

This situation is exactly like my race. I expected one thing and got another. It was due to a failure on my part to prepare correctly. I was unable to practice what I preach…visualizing the outcome. Whether it’s a running a race, speaking to a group, negotiating a contract, or going on a date, we must know our surroundings well. (Life lesson for all you single men: Don’t pick an unfamiliar restaurant for a first date. Pick one you’ve been to at least a few times, know the menu, where the bathrooms are, etc.)

Great lawyers are known in the industry as “furniture movers.” The day before and again in the hours before a big trial, the great attorneys will spend time in the courtroom, picturing exactly where the jury will be seated, where this table will be and that table will be, and even moving chairs and tables around as they think will best serve them and their clients. It’s a beautiful exercise in visualization and preparation.

Resolve to be a “furniture mover” in life. Prepare well, know your surroundings ahead of time, know the race route, and visualize and rehearse what success looks like over and over. You will be more confident, more relaxed, and maybe even hit your goal time.

Have you ever been surprised by a situation that you could have prepared for? What did you learn from it?

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