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Running in the Desert at 3 am

After I lost my sister to cancer I worked to create a nonprofit organization. It quickly became my passion but after six years of planning, two people suddenly left. It felt like the rug was pulled out from under me all over again. I wanted to quit.

There were about eight of us left on the board of directors, and someone suggested we meet over the weekend. We brainstormed possibilities for the future; do we stop, do we quit? A terrific “true north” suggestion was to NOT do anything drastic for six weeks. Could we hang in there for a while then check back in?

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Long story short, that pause led to great things. We eventually raised $5 million, and opened the doors of the organization five years ago. We’ve hosted about 30,000 visits to our nonprofit clubhouse, and we’ve helped a lot of people. It’s all thanks to one specific tool in that moment of change.

That tool is called “the brain dump.” First you get all the possibilities out on the table. Spend some time considering each specific option through discussion, or write them all down.

The next step is to prioritize and choose just one direction. We call that a true north decision. The cool thing about true north is that it can be for a short period of time. That’s really important because when change happens, things can move quickly. Remember you’re just going in this direction for the next phase, the next week, or just the next day.

Look at your situation and decide where to focus, and for how long. It’s normal to spend the energy of our day spinning if we’re not intentional about it. By getting those ideas out, they become a possible way to move forward.

When anything changes, it’s natural to question what’s next. There might be a stress response, or fight/flight/freeze. It’s important to slow down just long enough to evaluate, then move on with the next step.

One of the things we share with our Be Brave students is how to create a personal mission for yourself. It’s perfect for when sudden change comes, and gives you a focused purpose to get through that period.

This exact process of “focused purpose” is how I helped my husband finish a hundred-mile race.

He’s an ultra-marathoner and it’s wonderfully crazy. His passion sometimes involves running at 3:00 AM in the Arizona desert. I decided to support him by running the last twenty miles to help with his pacing.

When he found me in the dark, he’d sprained his ankle about five miles before. He was in a lot of pain, but he’d already gone about 80 miles at that point. This race was his goal and his passion, and I knew he had to finish.

My true north for the next twenty miles was to just keep going. I knew with his injury we couldn’t run, but we could hike. All I had to do was keep him walking, keep him positive, and stay hydrated. At 9:30 the next morning, he crossed the finish line.

The only way we succeeded was because we had a true north for a specific period of time. It created built-in checkpoints of “how am I doing? Am I going in the right direction? Are we drinking enough water?”

Even though it was his ultra-marathon, I was still able to play a role. As his support person, I provided a different view of things, and figured out where to go next. This role is often overlooked, but can be vital to success. In fact, support often makes all the difference.

It was just like the board of directors pitching in for the brain dump on the non-profit. By creating a true north direction, we got through the tough times.

What’s the moment when you feel like quitting? What’s one thing you could focus on, and for what period of time?

We’re experiencing so much change right now. If it feels like that rug is being pulled out from under your feet, try this. Start with that brain dump and create a mission for yourself. Find your true north, and adjust as needed. Even if you aren’t facing any big shifts, practice this with a small decision. Soon this will become automatic, and it will help you find your way forward if you face a challenge in the future.

Let us know how it goes, and join the Be Brave Facebook Group. We would love to hear your questions, observations, ideas, and experiences there. Remember to be brave.


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