We have all heard the saying, “Life’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

In other words, we need to approach life’s many large, ambitious projects step by step, so we don’t burn ourselves out in the short term.

When I was in my final semester of graduate school for physical therapy, I remember approaching my exam prep like a sprinter would approach an event: sporadic, with quick bursts of intense studying. That was the way I had approached all my previous tests in school, and I had aced them all! But the board exam was different than all the other tests I had studied for. 

No matter what your current ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.Carol S. Dweck

The sprinter study method that had gotten me by so many times before didn’t work with a task as difficult as the board exam—as my repeated failed attempts on the practice tests proved. I had to learn how to pace myself, day by day, learning each topic and subject one at a time. In many ways, the required extended, methodical “training” for this test felt like the preparation an athlete might do for a marathon. And when I adapted my studying habits to this long-term method, I was met with much more fruitful study sessions and more successful practice tests—and I passed the board exam.