By DAN HALL
How to use life’s mile markers
Growing up, I can remember my dad testing his car odometer against the mile markers on the road. He wanted to know if his car was accurate. I learned how to anticipate arrival times or even give directions because of the mile markers.
Life is full of mile markers.
I used to be a regular runner. Anywhere between six and nine miles a day. I did that until my late 40s, when a terminally persistent injury took me out of the game.
Well, I say I ran six miles. Actually, I ran 200 to 250 yards, 40 to 50 times. I would find some marker down the trail and run to it. As soon as I passed it, I would find another marker and run to it. I found that I could run much further if I ran a series of shorter distances.
The older I get, the more I realize how important life’s mile markers are.
When I was growing up, we never did preschool, elementary or middle-school “graduations.” Those were reserved for high school, college and even more prestigious moments. The new graduation phases began occurring when my children were little, and after a few curmudgeonly diatribes, I came to appreciate the celebrations.
But what we did have growing up was “the first day of school.” At church, we had our Sunday school promotion day or “step-up” day. I remember “stepping up” into middle school (we called it junior high in Texas) and how big I felt. And it gave me an increased sense of place.
As our kids go back to school, it’s a mile marker for them. It might only be 200 yards since their last “step up,” but it’s a part of the larger journey.
And there are other “first days of school.” The first job. The first baby. The first mortgage. The first firing. The first promotion. The first business. The first time your teen ignores you in public. The first bad diagnosis. The first European trip after retirement. The first wedding. The first loss of a parent. The first grandchild.
Too often, we spend our lives trying to hang on past the shelf life of the good experiences — and either ignoring or giving way too much emotional energy to the bad ones. Life undulates. Learning to flex with it by realizing there’s another 200 yards can actually give us hope.
Here are three things I’ve learned about mile markers:
◆ They are coming and going whether we want them to or not.
◆ I’m either embracing the moment or fighting it.
◆ God’s grace and presence is available, especially when I don’t feel like He or it is.
Henry David Thoreau said it well: “Live deeply and suck the marrow out of life.”
Paul said it better. Crying out to God in a particularly difficult time of life, Paul shares his exchange with the Divine: “But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
Run to the next marker. Life may be a marathon, but gratefully, it’s broken up into 200-yard segments!
Dan Hall is an executive and strategic coach to leaders and executive teams. He also works with organizations on team building, conflict resolution and communication skills. He and his wife, Hazel, have six children and four grandchildren. You can reach him at Dan@OnCourseSolutions.com.