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Running that extra milerunning that extra mile

By G. Balasubramanian

“Running an extra mile” is more than an idiom. It has latent in it the spirit which is more than that extra mile on athletic fields. The dictionary meaning refers to ‘the willingness to make a special effort to achieve something or do something.” History is evidence to many achievers who were enthusiastic and committed to run that extra mile. This spirit differentiates an individual from others. It need not necessarily suggest the spirit of leadership, but an individual trait of a person at any level to demonstrate to the world that he is capable of being a little better than others. Though this spirit is more acknowledged and featured in a competitive environment, there are many who had run that extra mile not for any reward, praise or becoming a celebrity, but just for the personal satisfaction of being their true self.

Israelmore Ayivor, an inspirational writer says

“Everybody is standing, but you must stand out
Everybody is breaking grounds; but you must breakthrough!
Everybody scratching it; but you must scratch it hard!
Everybody is going, but you must keep going extra miles!
Dare to be exceptionally excellent and why not?”

The desire to drive an extra mile could be either through self-motivation or through an external stimuli or compulsion. Any of these things could push an individual to a higher level of performance, but when the stimuli are external, it is usually associated with stress, anxiety and is situation or event driven. But when the desire to run that extra mile is self-driven, it becomes a passion, an exploration, an innovation, and a value. It becomes a joyous exercise with least fear, stress, and competition. It also goes with self-accountability and hence become a responsible exercise.

In an environment where people relate their performance to the rewards or revenue they get, they tend to do things that are ‘defined,’ that are ‘achievable’ and that are ‘routine.’ In such an environment, people with a desire to ‘run that extra mile’ not only stand to advantage in terms of their being ‘noticed’ or ‘acknowledged’ but gain experiences that are having a long-term impact on their advancement both in professional and social dynamics. Says Livia Zornio, “Often everyone around you is doing only the bare minimum, or unfortunately, in some cases, not even the bare minimum, and it is precisely in these situations that going the extra mile can lead you to achieve something new.”

It is quite possible that in any organization there could be forces which tend to create roadblocks to such performers or take steps to demotivate them or create situations where they would find their existence in the organization itself becomes challenging. I fondly recall how four decades before when I started my career, there were colleagues who used to scoff at me saying that “New guy! For some time, he will run around and then retire” and satirically ‘the new broomstick will clean well for some time.” If any individual succumbs to demotivating challenges, he or she would never be able to explore the unfathomed oceans of experience and knowledge. It is done just for the adventure of life.

Though running an extra mile has its own psychological challenges initially, once your confidence profile supports you, your capacity to take willing and calculated risks in your growth profile is abundant, then one would see the road ahead is just free of traffic jams. Says Zig Zigler “There are no traffic jams when you go the extra mile.” Oftentimes one might find that he is the lone player in the region of the extra mile and hence must enhance the levels of awareness about the journey and the path ahead. “It’s never crowded along the extra mile.” says Wayne Dyer.

For several people, ‘running that extra mile’ initially may be borne out of curiosity or a desire to highlight oneself. In such cases, there is every possibility of the spirit getting diluted or liquidated over a period, as such people link their attempts to an aspiration or a success. Though such aspirations are not wrong, but it is important that the spirit of running that extra mile should slowly integrate into others functional aspects of life. In short, it becomes a trait. This helps in entrepreneurship, discovery and in scaling the peaks of excellence.

Relating this spirit to a timeline of age or other scales would be incorrect. There is evidence where people even in their evening of life have sustained this spirit and have demonstrated their success and worth in different fields of activity. It should also be noted that limitation of resources are not major constraints in this exercise, as the spirit of adventurism of such persons explores ways and means to break all possible known barriers.

Counter arguments are always given against such initiatives by bringing the focus to ‘work-life’ balance. In one of the articles presented in the world economic forum and published in Forbes magazine, titled “The Danger Of 'Running the Extra Mile'” by Paolo Gallo, (Chief HR Officer, World Economic Forum (oct 2017) Forbes Magazine), some interesting aspects of research on this issue has been highlighted.

“The connection between stress and productivity is well known and well documented. The first study on this link dates back to 1908, when the psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson demonstrated that a relationship between the two phenomena exists, but it's not a linear one.

When the stimulus (stress) is too low, our productivity suffers. But as the stress level rises, so does our productivity. This means that stress gives us more focus and helps us stay on task - but up to a point. In fact, when stress is too intense, our productivity drops because fatigue kicks in. If we turn up the pressure even higher, the outcome could be much more severe, not just for productivity, but in personal consequences too.

The dark side of the extra mile emerged in a study run by SDA Bocconi, an Italian business school, involving 650 participants. According to the findings, when people feel pressured by their company to do more than their jobs require, they experience a significant increase in fatigue. In fact, individuals under intense extra-mile pressure present a 50% higher rate of fatigue compared to others who are not subject to the same kind of stress.”

While the above facts relate to external stimuli on running that extra mile, if one could internalize this spirit and apply the same in a measured and programmed manner so that one is not a victim of mental and psychological fatigue, the journey could be effective, fruitful, and joyous.

Says Napoleon Hill, “Start going the extra mile and opportunity will follow you.”

Why not try?