What Habits Can Proposal Professionals Learn from Highly Effective Marathoners?

I love jogging, or to be more precise, trail jogging. I have been jogging for more than 30 years in the Washington, DC area, and for more than a decade I have limited my jogging to hilly, forested, dirt trails. I enjoy being in the woods with my dog because I love moving and in the woods “we recover our reason and faith” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

For me, trail jogging is both fun and therapeutic, no matter what the distance may be.
In this month’s issue of Runner’s World, there is an article by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness about the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Marathoners.” When I read this article, I saw many fruitful parallels between being an effective marathoner and being an effective proposal professional. They are:

Find your purpose. To run a marathon, you must find a motivating purpose. It could be losing weight or raising money for a charity. Similarly, effective proposal professionals need to find a purpose in and for their work. Without it, they are just doing a job.

Aim for the sweet spot. Marathoners need to develop a training plan that pushes them without causing injuries or burnout. Proposal professionals also need to set goals that enable them to perform more effectively and advance their careers without causing undue stress.

Warm up body and mind. To compete in a marathon, you must take exceptional care of your body and mind. Proposal professionals need to find a work-life balance that enables them to be mentally and physically healthy. To me, this is very important for a simple reason – too many proposal professionals are out of shape, in so many different ways.

Choose less. Marathoners must focus on what is most important to get to the finish line. Proposal professionals also need to determine what is most important, in their proposals and in their careers.

Follow stress with rest. Successful marathoners take naps, rests, and breaks to let their bodies heal. Proposal professionals need to do the same, or the stress of proposal development will overwhelm even the most committed.

Practice “calm conversations.” Marathoners learn to stay calm in order to perform well. Proposal professionals also need to practice calm to reduce the demands and stresses of their jobs.

Reframe race-day nerves. Successful marathoners learn to control their anxieties as race day approaches. Proposal professionals face many milestones, deliverables, and deadlines. Like marathoners, they must find ways to lower their anxieties to achieve their goals.

Successful marathoners have a lot to teach the rest of us, especially proposal professionals. I hope to see you whizzing by me on the trail.

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