Two to four times per week, I lace up my running shoes and head out for 20-90 minutes of aerobic exercise: generally a run, but sometimes a run-walk combination depending on the distance.

Why do I run, and why do I run this way? Sustainability.

I have held gym memberships. I bike as one form of cross-training. I like to swim. I would play basketball every day if I could. But I stick with running — outdoors — as my most consistent form of aerobic exercise. At times I have run faster. I have run farther. I have run more frequently. But I know myself: my body, my budget, my personality, my schedule, my motivators, my limits. I have learned what works for me. My groove is found in the routine above. It’s a routine that I can do, and have done, for years. That is sustainability.

I am working on building sustainable habits in the rest of my life as well. Diet. Sleep. Spiritual disciplines such as prayer and time in God’s Word. Relationships and emotional investments. Leadership practices.

I like challenges. I sometimes experience bursts of creative energy. I like to see immediate, impressive results. But none of those are sustainable. I can get by with 4-5 hours of sleep for a night or two but I need eight or more on a regular basis. I know how to lose weight quickly but I can tell you that those pounds don’t stay gone for long. I can go on a weekend retreat and interact with people non-stop for three days straight but that doesn’t make me an extrovert. I can win the leadership battle but lose the war.

Health, ministry, leadership, relationships: these are distance events, not sprints. Short bursts can provide motivation and momentum but can’t carry you forever. Long-term effectiveness requires long-term discipline and sustainable strategies. Yours might look different from mine, but we all need them.

In what area of your life do you need to shift your focus from short-term success to long-term sustainability?

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