How To Use the Walk + Run Strategy in Your Career and Turn the Tide in the Rat Race
I recently met with a good friend contemplating a career change.
He is stuck in a mildly profitable position requiring him to make great personal sacrifice in his family and broader life callings. He recognizes, wisely I might add, he needs to course correct before his current position steals away what is so valuable to him.
Many of us have sat in his chair before. We have, at one time or another, found ourselves in the rat race thinking that things will just work out and get better. For most of us, we find great difficulty maintaining our demanding careers with a real commitment to our marriages and families. We make little sacrifices here and there until our loved ones are numb to our absence. After a short season, it hurts less to be vacant and it firmly plants low expectations with our loved ones. What we find at the end of this path may include material wealth but will most likely reap a shattered family, or a distant one at best.
But how do you get off of the rat race without derailing your calling to provide and contribute to the world around you?
Give the walk + run strategy more than a passing glance for starters.
What is the walk + run strategy?
It’s actually quite simple. I learned about it as I started running to get in better shape and "burn" through my love of food instead of blobbing over with it. One of the difficulties with beginning a running regimen is that the strenuous nature of the exercise makes it very difficult to build up and make it a consistent habit. But the walk + run strategy helps bridge the gap. Using it, you walk for a set amount of minutes and run for a set amount of minutes. In the beginning you walk much more than you run. As you progress, you gradually increase the amount of minutes you spend running. Then by the end, you are running continuously.
The same idea can translate to our career path for some people and should be considered. It may also help you start your own side consulting gig or even start a new business (while you are working). Frankly, I have found this "pace" change pays dividends in several callings including marriage, children, and other important areas of focus.
First, will it benefit you?
If you know you need to course correct, the signs are obvious. But there is that nagging question in your mind asking, “if this is not it, what is ?" Sometimes it makes sense to stop running and walk for a while. Slow down and you will gain a great deal of clarity and focus. It can facilitate a very beneficial time where you become self-aware of areas you need to improve, and possibly other career paths that are more appealing and may present a new direction for your skills when you (because you will) start running again. Or, it may confirm the path you were on and give you some time to repair the damage at home. You may also deepen your skills or learn new ones. Just as there are splits in the walk + run strategy for fitness, your next career “split” will be running, not walking. But you will be running more efficiently with your priorities in place and with better knowledge of why you are running.
Second, if it is for you, here are three key recommendations to begin your walk + run strategy:
- Get your financial house in order. Most people I meet that need this type of break in life are working very hard to maintain a certain lifestyle or meet the needs of one or many dependents. The need for income is very real (my house too). Before you slow down and walk for a bit in your career, then you need to come to grips with your spending and your current balance sheet. You need to quantify just how much of a pay cut you can sustain while you regroup and catch your breath. (Did I mention this will likely require a pay cut? Sorry to bear bad news.) Don’t under estimate the impact reduced compensation will have on your life. You will love the free time you will get to reinvent yourself and reconnect with your family, but your financial situation will not necessarily improve immediately. You must quantify what your slower life will cost you, but do not lose sight of the benefit. The much improved trajectory in your career and the satisfaction of winning back your family is usually well worth the cost.
- Check your pride at the door. In order to pull this off, you may need to find a position that many, perhaps yourself included, will deem to be beneath your abilities. Frankly, the cause of stress in your current role may be because you took on more than you could handle. Still, many will counsel you to not take the path and make shipwreck of your career. When this happens, first keep in mind you are building something much larger than just a career. Usually people who give you this advice are not busy building marriages, families, and other noble endeavors. Second, listen to them and choose wisely so that you do not completely wreck your previous experience. Give ample time to plan this, and apply wisdom to find something you can build from when you start to run again while building the important things. Usually these new paths are not beneath you, but are different than the current path.
- Make the most of your time. I neglected to mention earlier, get 100% spousal buy in before you do this. Your family is dependent upon you, don’t lollygag in the new role longer than necessary. Make good use of the opportunity to gain the clarity you need to course correct and diligently plan ahead for the next split. The basic idea of walking between runs is to improve your ability to run, not to succumb to walking.
Many people I know cannot use this strategy; their financial status or family dynamics simply will not allow it. I hope they can apply this concept even in an abbreviated manner by slowing down other areas of life.
Others may love their career and their calling, but may just need to back off from the pace and accept less work in the same career to get a breather to focus more on what is really important.
I have seen this strategy be highly effective in running, and in life. You can do it.
Let me know your thoughts. Have you seen this done effectively in your life? I would love to hear your story (career or running!)