It’s A Feel Thing

AJW's TaproomIn my years as a school administrator, I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying decision-making. Both as a person needing to make dozens of decisions a day as well as someone who has found himself mentoring future educational leaders, I have actually become quite a student of how we make decisions and, in particular, how we decide how to decide.

If that last phrase seems odd, bear with me for a minute. In many organizations and institutions, decisions need to be made constantly and quickly. Some of these decisions have small impacts while others have massive impacts and in all cases they are usually important to someone in the organization. For a leader, deciding how to decide can be the key step in the process and is, in many cases, a true blend of art and science.

When I am facing down a decision, particularly a high-impact one like what salary increase we should give all of the teachers for the next school year or whether or not we expel a troubled student, I often find myself toggling between the rational and the emotional, the head and the heart, ultimately, between thinking and feeling. And, in just about every case, I tend to lean toward the emotional/heart/feeling side. Sometimes I think it’s just because I was born that way and other times I think it’s because that’s the way others around me have made decisions. Regardless, it seems to be the way I tend to go just about always. And that is where running enters the picture.

You see, at least for me, running is a deeply feeling endeavor. Sure, there are aspects of it that require rational thought and focused reasoning, but for the most part it’s all about the heart, guts, and the inherent notion that the feel of running is better than the feeling of not running. When I am out there pounding out the miles, I expose a part of me that is 100% emotion, I am able to clear my head and just live in my heart. It is as close as I get to that instinctual part of me that lies dormant much of the rest of the time.

And so I’ll continue to juggle between the head and the heart in my work and my family life. But, when it comes to my running, I’ll remain firmly committed to the world of the heart. I’ll remain open to that animal in me that responds to feelings first and along the way I might just tap into some part of my soul I haven’t found yet. For it is through being a seeking runner that a lifetime of emotion has been honed. Through running, a sense of peace and well-being has been crafted. And in running I continue to inhabit a place that makes me who I am meant to be.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer Wine of the Week

Hill Haven Provisions Robie Point Pinor NoirThis week’s Beer of the Week is actually a bottle of wine. Last month at Western States, I was presented with a bottle of Pinot Noir from Robert and Caroline Boller. Caroline, as many of you know, is an accomplished ultrarunner and her husband Robert equally accomplished in the wine business. Their delicious Robie Point Pinot Noir, of Hill Haven Provisions, was made specifically in honor of the Western States 100 and is a delicious partner to steak, spaghetti, and maybe even soup.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • How do you most often make decisions, with your head or with your heart? Perhaps a combination of the two?
  • Does the way you make decisions change with the issues you face? As in, do you act on your heart in some parts of your life and with your head in others? Can you explain how this varies for you?

There are 7 comments

  1. Run GMD

    Great post, AJW! In my decision making at work I generally “lead with my head” and look to my heart as a double check to keep me honest. When the two don’t align it’s a sign the issue needs more consideration before I decide. Running is just the opposite – a chance for me to “get outside my head” and let my heart lead the way.

    For this reason I eschew formal training plans and chafe against heart rate monitors and other tech gizmos. I resist having a piece of paper or electronics dictate my run to me. Now I would be the first to admit that my performances may benefit from some more thinking, planning, and structure, but the freedom and elation I get from letting my heart rule the day is worth it.

    Have you read any of George Beinhorn’s work in this area? He worked at Runners World in the very beginning, translated Ernst Van Aaken’s work for Americans in the 70s, and now runs a blog called “Joyful Athlete”. His book of the same name is great reading on the topic of “running with heart”.

  2. Tom Davies

    As a fellow educator, I can completely understand what you are saying in this column. I also see my running as coming from the heart and from a point somewhere deep in my subconscious. We need these outlets that allow us to just “be”. Thanks for the insights AJW.

  3. Ruthie

    This is wonderful sir. I enjoy listening to you on various podcasts and you have so much wisdom to give. As a relatively new ultra runner at a more mature age, I truly feel I am at my most vulnerable, yet empowered when I challenge and push my limits during a long distance run. It is always with my heart that I run. Thank you for revealing that in such a succinct way. :)

  4. She Runs And Falls

    Thank you for taking the time to write this thoughtful piece. Are you a private school or public school administrator? I am a public school junior high math teacher in what qualifies as a Title 1 school.

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