So, you took on a marathon thinking it was a sprint? Oops. Don’t feel bad, that happens to all of us at one time or another. Now you, or the student in your life, are tired, and cranky, and stressed. It shows, others have noticed.  You are far enough into the race that turning back, changing directions or quitting isn’t an option. What now!

I found myself in this exact spot very recently with the graphics and technology part of my business. What I anticipated as a sprint turned out to be a marathon I wasn’t correctly paced for. I found myself tired and cranky, and yes, it showed!

So, what do you do when you’ve given your sprint all you’ve got, and then realize you’ve actually entered a marathon?

Start with the necessary. Meeting physical needs you may have let slide is first priority, and can make a huge difference in moving you back to the place you want to be.

Dr. Karyn Purvis, founder and director of the TCU Institute of Child Development, talks a lot about some simple ways to regulate both body and brain that are especially important in high stress times. What are those things? Making sure you are regularly eating protein, drinking lots of water, and resting when you are tired. Simple, right? I can’t tell you how many students and the occasional adult I’ve met who skip meals, stay up all hours and forget to drink water. These are all basic necessities, so they are the necessary starting place.

Once your physical needs have been met, it’s time to establish where you are at on the motivation cycle, so you can begin to move back to the place you want to be. The motivation cycle is made up of four distinct stages, and we all regularly move in and out of each stage.

  • Engaged – that sweet time and space where you are working at your best and things are going well.
  • Resistance – there is an internal or external block in your progress. You may have just realized you are in a marathon instead of the sprint you signed up for.
  • Disconnected – you’re stuck and it shows . . . cranky, tired, and stressed.
  • Recovery – the process of getting yourself back on track. First acknowledge and accept you are stuck or disconnected. Then dismiss any negative self-talk you might be tempted to think or speak. Finally, do what you know works and go back to being engaged.

For me, when I realize I’m in a marathon instead of the sprint I signed up for, the things that work best are taking a little time to re-adjust my expectations and schedule. Acknowledge the work and effort I’ve put in so far, remind myself why it matters, and then purposefully get back to it, pacing myself to the finish.

As you learn and fine tune what works for you, your recovery process will only get smoother and faster.


The Motivation Cycle is an Academic Life Coaching 1.0 coach training concept. Brenda is an ICF certified Academic Life Coach and trains youth advocates in the Academic Life Coaching 1.0 coach training program. She is an adoptive mom, youth advocate and a licensed therapeutic foster parent.  For more information about this program or on how to train as a coach, please click here.