As I sit here on Chicago Marathon Sunday, quietly cheering on and fist pumping the people racing on my TV from my living room couch, I feel giddy. Race day is always exhilarating to me. In year’s past, I have volunteered to hand out water, or followed and cheered family friends. I have even just stood outside along the route and screamed encouragement and woohoo’ed to perfect strangers, just for the heck of it. If you have never seen a marathon in person, you’re missing out on something really special.

Finding Inspiration from Elite Athletes

The wheelchair athletes alone will have you feeling like you can conquer the world. To see the elite runners up close, gliding like gazelles, will confirm that you could never look that cool running. Ever. It’s equivalent to watching someone run both fast and slow at the same time. What really stands out to me is how these superior athletes don’t seem to be distracted by the crowds or chants. Unlike the “regular” people racing, there are no earbuds or cell phones near them. You won’t see a lot of extra gear and hats — just their shorts, shirt and shoes. That’s it. Near the middle and at the end of the race, you’ll see the frontrunners glance over their shoulders to see how close their competition is, but not much more. They just keep striding along.

Watching them this morning reminded me of my workplace. Two weeks ago, I had two separate conversations with colleagues who told me that they had spoken to other co-workers who mentioned how I was super helpful and had “changed” for the better recently. I’ve written at length already about the challenging year I’ve had, so I won’t go into the details. But very little has changed about my outlook at this particular organization, what is different is how I view myself and my mental health. I have taken the attitude of absolute indifference. And it has saved me. The energy I usually spend being extremely passionate about what’s right and wrong, I now reserve for deciding how I want to feel and what I want to tackle each day.

Employing Indifference at Work and Focussing on My Stride

The positive feedback I have received comes from me de-investing. The less I try to change and force a different outcome, I apparently give off content, or dare I say, happier vibes. When I cared the most, I got the least positive results. At first, I was almost insulted, but on further reflection, I am glad. Who knew, that my couldn’t-care-less attitude would produce actual positive outcomes- not just for the “them,” but most importantly for me. Does this mean I don’t take pride in my work anymore? Hell no. What it means is there are things out of my control, functions that no longer serve us/me in my workplace and policies that should be revisited — but I can’t change any of that. So I won’t try. Instead, I will check on my left, check on my right and keep striding along.

Photo by Andy Wright on Unsplash
Elite runners aren't distracted by the non-essentials. What if, like them, we focussed only our stride? An argument for a little indifference at work.