10. The 60″ Dash


The key to success in school is self-discipline. The 60″ (60 second) dash is a technique to build self-discipline.

Strength and stamina
Let’s talk first about getting in physical shape. Then we’ll apply the lessons we’ve learned to getting our minds in shape.

Let’s say we want to gain muscle strength and build stamina.

Weight lifting
What is a way to build muscle strength? One way is lifting weights.

Let’s say we can lift a 50 lb. weight ten times within ten minutes and want to build up to lifting a 75 lb weight ten times within ten minutes. Would we just start by lifting a 75 lb. weight once each workout session?

We could do it that way. But better if we slowly approached the 75 lb. weight limit. We could have a workout routine such as lifting a 60 lb. weight five times in each workout session. After, say, ten workout sessions we might increase either the times we lift, the weight, or both.

So, we could change our workout session to be lifting a 60 lb weight eight times each session.

Over enough sessions we would reach our goal of lifting 75 lb. ten times in ten minutes.

Stamina has to do with increasing endurance. What is a way to increase stamina?

Let’s say we can run for one minute, and we want to be able to build up to running for an hour.

Would we make workout sessions where we just push ourselves to run for as long as we can, then stop, rest, and run again?

We could do it that way. Or we could create a workout schedule built on the principle of interval training.

We could make each session where we start by running a short distance, and then switch to walking before we tire ourselves out and/or run out of breath. We can then run again for a short distance, and switch back to walking.

Over a number of workout sessions we could increase the running distance and decrease the walking distance. Eventually, we would reach a point where we are running for an hour straight.

Executive functioning
The way we build up our physical strength and stamina shows us the way to strengthen our executive functioning skills and increase our executive functioning stamina.

Executive functioning is about directing ourselves to do things we want to do.

Think of it as a director of a movie. The director can only push the actors, technicians, set makers etc. so far. If he pushes them too far, too fast, he won’t get a good scene nor a good movie. But over time he can build cohesion among the cast and others.

Executive function is about building teamwork among all the facets of our personality.

The 60″ dash
You are the director over the movie of your life. The 60″ dash is about making short “films”, that is starting and completing small tasks. Over time you can build it up to making full length features. Here’s how it works:

The “run” consists of 10″ deciding what to do, 5″ of speaking it out, 40″ of videoing — that is, working on the task at hand, and 5″ recapping. The “walk” consists of tracking time for 5′. The total executive function run is 60″ plus 5′ equals 6′.

10″: Think about the task.
05″: Say out loud, “Do [fill in the task].”
40″: Do the task.
05″: Say out loud, “Did [fill in the blank].”
05′: Track time.

In a one-liner it’s: think, command, do, summarize, track.

So, say the task is reading a book. Start by running for 60″. It would go like this.

10″: Think about reading two paragraphs.
05″: Say out loud, “Read two paragraphs.”
40″: Read two paragraphs.
05″: Say out loud, “Read two paragraphs.”

Then, walk, that is, track time, for 5′.

Another way to abstract this is:
10″: Prep for the task mentally
05″: Articulate that task
40″: Activity phase
05″: Recap the task
05′: Track time.

In a one-liner it’s: prep, art, act, recap, track.

The idea is to keep up the process for one hour. That is, to do ten segments of running for 60″, followed by the 5′ cool down period.

What did we accomplish
What have we done through this exercise? We’ve exerted ourselves to do a task that we planned out in advance. That’s a major component of executive functioning. We’ve tracked time, an important executive functioning precursory skill.

That’s it. You may find find that you naturally begin taking shorter walks between tasks. Don’t do that. For the first couple of sessions, push yourself not to do more, but to be steady at doing less. It’s all about pacing. In reality, this can mean that the walk may be tougher than the run. True discipline requires exercising might in restraining from action even more than in performing an activity.

The 60″ dash can be the key to building self-discipline.