Last month, we went on another Arctic adventure, which provided a valuable metaphor for overwhelm that I want to share with you. This event is called the “Arctic Circle”, which we signed up for a couple of years ago and before we knew it, we’d flown out to Norway.  

A tale of endurance 

Arctic Circle is a three-day event that takes place close to the borders of Finland, Sweden and Norway.  

Day one is fat biking, which is, frankly, almost an impossible task. The total distance for this leg is 25km, though we only cycled for about 500m of that (and that was in stages). These events are full of very interesting people and all quite accomplished. Typically, you don’t realise what someone’s achieved until you go home and Google them.  

Day two is cross-country skiing over about 25km of undulating terrain, which we really enjoyed. We spent the night on the snow in two-man tents, before the final 20km push on snowshoes on day three. Blizzard conditions made for an uncomfortable start, but the 10km stretch across a nature reserve was worth the struggle.  

You might be thinking 20-25km is not a long way, but the terrain is anything but flat and the conditions are unforgiving. Should you lose a glove, you’ll probably need rescuing. If you take off a glove or other piece of clothing for too long, that body part may not warm up again. Managing body temperature (and that goes for heating up as well as cooling off) is absolutely a top priority.  

What’s in this story for you? 

What’s in this for you, aside from a good tale? 

Well, it’s this. Every time I do one of these adventures, I learn things about myself. In the Arctic Circle Race of 2019, I learnt that my endurance mindset was terrible. I overestimated how much I’d achieved and didn’t leave enough in the tank for what was left. This time, I channelled that previous experience to combat any feelings of overwhelm. And this principle applies to all aspects of managing energy. That can mean an endurance race or working through a busy period in the office. 

I am frequently asked about managing priorities and dealing with overwhelm in a business context. Whilst I don’t think there’s a neatly packaged answer to this. It all depends on the individual, their workload, and the context behind the question. Taking part in endurance events has significantly helped me deal with this. 

When you have got a long distance ahead, and the terrain is challenging and you’re dealing with hideous blisters (as I was), you need to be able to break down the distance into chunks. Focus on small efforts, don’t look too far ahead, accomplish that small gain and then set the next target. It’s about slowing down the pace, quietening the mind and focusing on the next goal. I believe this is just as valuable in a business context.