The MPO tool is all about getting to the core of how you’re authentically wired. By understanding and spending more time in your areas of strength, you’ll be stronger for the activities that are a weakness. It’s important to not stay in the area of weakness for too long or it will make one physically, mentally, and emotionally weak.

Often the paradox is in knowing when something is a weakness or a challenge.

What has been the biggest challenge of your life? For me, the year was 2011 and at 45, I decided to tackle RAGBRAI; a 7-day bike ride across Iowa, with 15k other riders. Two things to know about RAGBRAI; Iowa is NOT flat, and the route is not a direct route from the west to the east border. This is ~500 miles across rolling hills during the hottest and most humid week of the year.

So, with my mind set, I bought a great bike, trained for six months and on the third Saturday in July my husband drove me to the west side of the state to join my team for our adventure. For the next seven days/nights, I would live out of a tote, sleep in a tent and focus on staying right and upright.

I’ll always remember climbing onto my bike the first day as the sun was rising, the air was still, and my teammates were like dogs at the gate of a big race. Everyone was excited to embark on our 70-mile day, which started with the traditional dip of the back tire in the Missouri River. Three miles into the ride my legs started to cramp, my back started to ache, and I thought to myself, “what the heck was I thinking?” The negative narrative began to spiral, and I wondered if I could convince my husband to make the four-hour trek back to pick me up.

Pride took over and I decided to focus on one rotation of the pedals at a time. Just make it over the next hill, to the next town, to the end of the day. Whew – one day down, six more to go! I was promised that the next day would be easier. However, two hours into the next day, I realized that “easier” didn’t mean “easy”. Again, I focused on one rotation of the pedals at a time, yet there were times that tears were rolling down my face from sheer exhaustion.

By the third day, I was more comfortable with the pain and the sweat pouring down my face and back. On day five, I actually smiled and began to enjoy the scenery and camaraderie. And, by day seven, the last hill no longer seemed like a mountain. The 90-degree humid air on my face was a sign of progress. And the final stretch was an easy coast to the Mississippi River, where I dipped my front tire into the water to symbolize the final leg of the journey!

There were many things I learned over those seven days that translate to everyday life:

  • Great equipment and tools are key (like MPO in the business world)
  • Amazing colleagues/friends and support crew make every journey easier (though maybe not “easy”)
  • The common denominator for all who accomplished their goal was the belief and determination to do it!

For thousands of people, this experience provides an adrenaline rush that propels them to ride RAGBRAI year after year.

Not me.

It was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the thought of doing it again makes me a little nauseous.

From a work perspective, I could take on the “challenge” of mastering my analytical skills. However, I have learned that a challenge worth pursuing lights a fire in my gut. It makes me uncomfortable, but I’m drawn to it. It is harder to NOT do it than to do it. It’s something I know I’ll regret if I don’t try. The thought of mastering my analytical skills makes my stomach hurt. My body repels against it and no amount of encouragement, training classes or someone showing me how they do it, will flip that switch. I have achieved a level of basic competence and that’s where I’ll stay.

What great challenge do you dream about? Something that seems harder and harder to not do, than to do. That is the challenge you should pursue. Please listen closely to others to understand their dreams, which are likely different than yours. This will help you to understand and encourage their dream that lights a fire in their gut, and not focus on their weaknesses.

Congratulations to those who are on their final stretch of RAGBRAI; either literally or figuratively. Enjoy the accomplishment of an incredible challenge!

Whew – we made it to spring! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming. Yet, does anyone else feel like they’ve been in a mental boxing match for the past 12 months? We made plans, then had to pivot, got on course, then, oh shoot, pivot again. It was exhausting! 

If any of us were in a literal boxing match for 12 months, we would’ve had someone in our corner picking us up, patching our wounds, and cheering for us. We’d be able to physically see and label the hurt and exhaustion, and everyone would understand the need to take time to fully recover from twelve months of sucker punches.

But this mental boxing match was very different.

We were all in it at the same time; no one was outside of the battle, getting the encouragement boxers do when in their corner. We can’t see the wounds of exhaustion and brain fog. We have probably even recently said, “it’s time to get over it and move on”.

When we’re in this space of exhaustion, bad stuff happens. We lose our patience and lash out. We focus on the things that are wrong in the world and with each other. Tasks, projects, or relationships that were easier in the past are harder. Does any of this sound familiar? Is it just me?

If you have recognized this in yourself, or in others, here are three things you can do to help move forward: 

  1. Recognize this is a real issue and don’t shove it away.
  2. Give grace and space to others who are lashing out; they are likely hurting and confused on how to deal with the pain/exhaustion.
  3. Take time to recharge; seek help from friends, family, and/or professionals, go for a walk, hug your grandkids.

Some day we’ll be able to wear this experience like a badge of honor. Until then, respect the journey of recovery until we’re able to be with people in our corner again.