The Marathon of Life Requires CADENCE.

Announcing My 2022 Word of the Year!

I was on the track team in High School. In my senior year we were 6 girls and usually won our meets (Talk about “small but mighty”!) Our strategy was that we would each compete in four different events at every meet, and four was the max. We choose each event strategically— either because we were strong enough to win or because, due to the number of opponents, as long as we finished, we’d grab points. I found myself in the later situation often, as I endured the 2-mile run.

My strength event was the racewalk (Don’t laugh!) I still hold Briarcliff High School’s record for speedily walking a mile in 8:11. The training for this event, besides practicing how to straighten the leg as it passes below the plane of the body and only having one foot on the ground at a time, was running. And I ran often. And I hated it! That was, until I learned how to breathe. For years and years, I had gasped and gulped for breath haphazardly, with no strategy for inhaling and exhaling. This was especially so when I was laboring for breath. But one day, while I was running with Mrs. Huto, our AMAZING track coach, she suggested I pace my breathing to my steps. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I could control my breathing instead of letting my breathing control me!

It wasn’t long before I found the right Cadence for my breathing. I now felt strong and entirely in control as I intentionally paced my breath with every two steps as I climbed hills. I could almost sense what a runner’s high was as I extended my breathing (and my strides) on mild downhills to three steps per “sip” of breath. It was like cruise control, giving my body optimum fuel economy.

It’s metaphoric that breathing, the essence of life, can be erratic and out of whack, but also measured. We are in total control of our breathing. We can intentionally breathe to calm our nervous systems and breathe to excite our neurochemistry. But unfortunately, we often, inadvertently, let our breathing control us.

Seeking Equilibrium and Setting Pace

A sense of control in life is what I’ve been chasing these days, too. After all, if the long pandemic has taught me nothing else, it’s how many motivated professionals have lost pace with themselves as they desperately try to keep up with the demands of work. Many have been running an all-out sprint for nearly two years now without considering how they’re depleting their life’s fuel. And without essential refreshes of periodic downhill “glides”, they’re burning out. Concerningly, most client self-assessments, which precede DRIVEN to Wellness virtual education workshops, show a self-care score of only 4 out of 10 stars. This is simply unsustainable, as is the number 800,000 and growing— which is how many Americans have perished from Covid-19. Life is short, and fragile.

By burning energy inefficiently now, those of us who successfully navigate through or learn to be safe with Covid are not necessarily setting ourselves up for success later. Perpetual stress and overwhelm do not inspire graceful aging. Like the frog on slow boil in a soup kettle, burnout has a way of sneaking up on people, whereas the evidence of this REAL problem is hiding plainly in sight.

As I transition to the next phase of my life and career, I want to keep the big picture in mind: not the next year or even the next decade, but what my older, wiser self, squarely ensconced in the autumn of her life, will benefit from due to the choices I’m making today.

So, I’ll be marinating on Cadence in 2022 by asking what rhythms and tempos I can incorporate into my activities, tasks and engagements to find the right balance between present self and future self. I’ll be seeking an equilibrium of exertion and recovery, of production and reflection, of contribution and enjoyment of my efforts.

There are many dimensions to explore when it comes to Cadence, from our daily circadian rhythms to how we pace our week’s work. When do we double down on work and when (and how) do we relax, rejuvenate and restore our personal energy? How do people motivated to living their best lives now, as well as setting ourselves up to be vibrant, fit and sound-minded octogenarians, pace ourselves? How do we yield to seasonal variations instead of plowing through?

Although “Cadence” has been rattling around in my head for some time now, I recently had an epiphany: I’m not training for a career marathon, but a life marathon! I’m looking forward to creating and discovering MY best practices for this ambitious goal. I am grateful to acknowledge that my decisions, habits and practices today may directly affect my 80+ year-old wiser self, letting me make better decisions today for both of those Deborahs.

I hope my exploration will benefit you, too. And as always, I welcome your point of view, experiences and current practices that set up your current and future self for success. Let’s investigate Cadence together this year, and strengthen our cores for what the future holds in store.

 

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