Two Qualities of Productive People

Word Count: 1120

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes


“For a dream comes through much effort…” – Ecclesiastes 5:3

He finally did it!

On October 12th, 2019, the once considered impossible barrier of a man running a marathon in under two hours was broken. It was only fitting that the best marathon runner in the world would have this distinct honor. With a pace making team of 41 world-class runners and cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, Eliud Kipchoge finally did it. He produced what most thought was impossible. But this was not Kipchoge’s first attempt at history. Two years ago, he tried but fell short by an agonizing 25 seconds. He did not quit, but became the latest barrier breaker, inspiring many that the ceiling can indeed become the floor. In like manner, there was a time when running the mile in under 4 minutes was considered impossible. Medical experts even went as far as to say that whoever tried, would die. That’s until Roger Bannister committed himself to the task. He did it and lived to talk about it. Since then, Wikipedia records that over 1,400 male athletes have broken 4 minutes over the mile and the record now stands at 3:43.13. This goes to show that breaking barriers inspires others to believe that what was once impossible is possible. 

How did Eliud do it? How can we apply the same to our lives so as to break barriers and become producers and not just consumers? To begin with, we can undoubtedly point to Eliud’s relentless training regimen and having a team as an integral part of his success. But, a week before Eliud accomplished his history tilting feat, his coach, Patrick Sang referenced two distinct qualities that set Eliud apart from other runners. Mental strength and positivity. They are part of the package that has produced the world’s best marathon runner. It is those two qualities that I believe mark productive people.  Let’s look at each one of them in turn.

Mental Strength 

Eliud is not just a physical athlete. He is a mental one as well. He regards his mental health of equal importance as his physical health. He is an avid book reader. He also exemplifies that current effort leads to greater strength in the future. This leads to a willingness to commit to perseverance, which is a key ingredient to productivity. From the dictionary, perseverance means “to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.” It’s looking beyond the hurdles of delay and difficulty, that discourage us. Pastor and best-selling author, Dr. David Jeremiah, describes perseverance as “a never-give-up attitude, a commitment to move forward when everything is conspiring to hold you back.” Well said!

Mentally strong people always seem to have a long-term view of life. Even in the midst of current setbacks. They maintain enthusiasm in the unpleasantness of life. In addition to that, they read from books that enrich and provoke their mental faculties. Most importantly, they measure their daily decisions and habits on the basis of where they are going, not where they have been. 

Like me, our daughter loves running. She does it with so much joy. Her only problem is she looks back while running and ends up falling. We stress to her, “Look where you are going!” If there is one thing I can emphasize to anyone who desires to become mentally strong is to stay focused on where you are going. 

Besides reading and persevering through difficulties like Eliud and other highly productive people, I have equally gleaned mental strength by choosing to be an example setter instead of an excuse maker. In doing so, I have found myself accomplishing challenging yet worthwhile goals instead of using challenges as excuses for not making an attempt. Make the choice to develop mental strength and you will cultivate positivity along the way.

Cultivated Positivity

After Kipchoge failed in his first attempt to break 2 hours, he said, “Now the world is only twenty-five seconds away.” And before his victorious attempt in Vienna, he said, “You know what they say, ‘A rabbit cannot escape for two seasons.’ It escaped one season in Monza, but it will not escape this season in Vienna.”

Positivity keeps us looking forward with hope. Similar to Eliud, we must choose a positive outlook regarding life if we are to remain productive. We can choose to live life as:

  1. Skeptics: doubting everything.
  2. Pessimists: seeing the worst in everything and everyone.
  3. Cynics: distrusting the motives of others.
  4. Optimists: hopeful but not willing to face reality when it is hard. 
  5. Hopeful realists: facing reality no matter how bad with a hopeful and confident disposition. 

You might be asking what is the difference between optimism and hopeful realism? On the surface, they appear the same but optimism has a way of dodging the difficulties of life in the name of staying positive. For instance, not checking your bank account balance because you are afraid to find out how bad it is. Or, avoiding that difficult but needful conversation with a friend that will ultimately improve the relationship in the long run. This approach serves to compound problems since there can be no engagement where there has been no effort. In simpler terms, we cannot attend to what we avoid. In truth, optimism can make us avoid the warning signs that if heeded can make a difference. We become our own worst enemies and consequently, a crash occurs. 

Hopeful realism, on the other hand, sees things for what they are and yet believes that better is possible and on the horizon. Faith doesn’t deny reality. Instead, it faces it directly with the armor of truth, confidence, and hope that change will take place. Even when the wherewithal is not present. Co-host of the popular Lead to Win podcast, Megan Hyatt-Miller, says, “It’s (hopeful realism) the balance that not only protects you from avoidance but also ensures you retain a sense of agency.” 

Eliud faced the reality that he did not break the record in 2017. But he faced it with hope. That hope led him to train harder and come back in 2019 to capture that elusive rabbit.  

Of the five life outlooks, which one do you lean towards most? What do you need to attend to in order to become a hopeful realist? 

Final thought: Ignorance is never bliss in relation to the importance of living a productive life. Intention and effort are of far greater value. Taking the initiative to develop your mental strength and cultivate positivity are sure ways to position yourself for a life filled with productivity no matter where you are. Like Eliud, rabbits that escaped in previous seasons of your life will be yours in the next one.

Keep on keeping on!

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