Habits and Opportunities

There are 3 elements of a habit: a trigger, a routine and a reward. For example, my morning starts at 4:15 AM when my alarm goes off – the trigger.  Having planned the previous evening to meet a co-worker at 5:45, there starts the routine; a 5.5 mile run along the Charles River.  The reward follows at 6:30 when I complete the run and that is my accomplishment.  Some mornings external factors such as weather and lack of sleep make the accomplishment (reward) that much more significant and I am sure to give just recognition to that daily accomplishment; another habit.

On Monday, maybe unbeknownst to any of us, a habit was formed in the wake of the tragedy. The trigger is the press, email, the word marathon, John Hancock, NORD, the word partner, bomb … and the routine is to think about the horror that took place on the afternoon of April 15, 2013.  Unfortunately, the reward is the sadness that our bodies exhibit as the defense mechanism to cope with the horrifying thoughts of the day.

None of us will be able to completely eliminate the trigger.  We will just not be able to forget the day as there will always be a reminder.  The thing that we can impact is the routine and ultimately the reward.  I am committing myself to force this habit to not immediately think about the tragedy.  It is important that we never forget those truly impacted by this devastating event but I am going to control when I choose to think about the tragedy.

The routine I am going to develop is to think about Friday night’s dinner with my wife, Ann, and my patient partner’s family, Shannon  and Alexa.  I will think about Saturday, going to the Expo and spending time with all of the marathon runners picking up my bib and feeling the excitement of race day.  I will  think of the dinner; sharing one of the most special evenings in my life with all of the runners, families and rare disease community families in attendance.  I will think about the race day breakfast and Shannon putting on my warrior paint and again seeing all of the patient families and runners and connecting with everyone again after the wonderful Saturday dinner. I will think about the ride to Hopkinton with the team and the preparation for the race. I will think about 14 miles of running on that glorious course, high fiving kids and spectators  and recognizing friends along the way.  I will think about the 4-minute stop at mile 14.5; touching, hugging, and embracing all of the community members and family in their warrior paint (that was a magical 4 minutes!!).  I will think about the next 12 miles, nearly effortlessly tackling the 4 Newton Hills and high fiving  nearly everyone for 3 straight miles with Shane as spectators chanted “Go Genzyme.”  Finally, I will think about Tuesday, spending closure time with Shannon and Alexa, having lunch and taking them to the airport to return to Arizona.

The reward speaks for itself. This community will forever be tied to the events of April 15, 2013.  Let us all use this tie to stay connected with each other and remember the wonderful relationships formed over the last few months.  Use the triggers that we can’t control to inspire each of us to do what we can control; reach out to our team members and partners and say “hey, I was thinking about you today.”  Let’s use this tragedy as a positive means to build our community.

There lies the opportunity!

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2 comments on “Habits and Opportunities
  1. Gail says:

    Thank you, Phil, for your beautiful words and touching sentiments. I know that I feel incredibly connected to this day and to this group of people – people who just a short while ago were strangers but whose welfare was so important to me that my heart aches just remembering the fear that some of you were in harm’s way. The Genzyme runners and the patient partners and their families have all been so inspiring to me – and though I still remember the hint of trepidation from our first phone call (when I was wondering what I was getting myself into) I simply can’t imagine not knowing you. You were so spot on to partner me with Kai – and I count my blessings every time I think of how lucky I was to have been with Amy throughout the ordeal.

    So I applaud your suggestion to turn tragedy into opportunity – it already has.

  2. Thanks for sharing Phil. It was great to see you out there on the course. Even though two cowards tried to steal the day from everyone, I’m not going to let them. What you guys do for everyone with a rare disease is awesome. I especially love that you’ve already started the count down to next year’s marathon. Well done!

    A special thanks of course goes out to my brother in law Jack Prior but I want to thank every one of the runners personally for helping Karen and I and especially Brianna by raising awareness and making the day such a special one for each of us. Thank you.

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