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GPS for the Political Soul: HALT in the Home Stretch

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As the 2012 campaign careens toward the home stretch, it is time for 2012 campaigners to halt. Literally, as Joe Biden would say. Halt. Of all the lessons recorded in my campaign boot camp books http://www.PelosiBootCamp.com, I'm told this is the hardest to live by. But it may make the winning difference for you or your campaign.

In our 24/7 world we are all moving to get in front of the curve -- not to halt lest the others rush by. Why in the world with early voting starting and decisions being made should anyone slow down, much less halt?

Why? Because the home stretch is when we mess up. Fear of failure or (more common but less discussed) fear of success can manifest in the most basic human triggers: Hungry Angry Lonely or Tired. H-A-L-T.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't get this lesson from a politician, but from a longtime leader in the recovery movement. She told me that addicts are most likely to relapse when they are Hungry Angry Lonely or Tired -- so the best advice is the simplest: HALT.

In practical terms this means if you are hungry -- eat something. Don't smoke, eat.

If you are angry -- breathe, meditate, practice yoga -- it'll help you shrug off anxiety or political attacks rather than taking them personally. Check out http://www.offthematintotheworld.org for inspiration.

If you are lonely -- call one of your "first name friends" who love you no matter whether you win or lose and reflect on your call to service. In a broader sense, reach out to a bigger audience to connect with people who are there to help the campaign come together.

If you are tired -- get some sleep. The world will be better served after your catnap than before.

Many friends in recovery practice the HALT mantra for themselves and I see it give them peace.

For campaigners at mile 22 of a marathon, slowing down is the last thing on their minds. But this is only mile 1 for the voters. You want to meet those voters with grace and grit. Disciplined campaigns know this, so they run like they are behind even when polls say they are ahead; they stay focused and use rapid response to counter late hits; and they try not to let their opponents get inside their heads.

This is especially important for so-called "political junkies" who get adrenaline rushes from instant infotainment and claim to thrive on chaos. I see you - laughing out loud at the thought of meditating in the middle of a maelstrom. But chaos isn't comfort to millions of Americans who are hurting and need concrete answers to jobs, health care, education, and security. Chaos is no excuse for veering off course because you fear failure or success. Not for nothing do millions of recovering addicts respond to chaos with something called the Serenity Prayer -- "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

But the pros find a way to HALT and recharge - as my mother Nancy Pelosi says -- to "put politics on the shell" for a little bit in order to come back to it refreshed. Barack Obama plays basketball and has his family time, as Michelle Obama reminded us so beautifully last week. Today being Sunday, I know Nancy Pelosi has been to mass and is doing The New York Timescrossword puzzle while eating dark chocolate. Moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day, those interludes will add up to more productivity. Doubt it? Honestly, how many times have you seen a candidate trip up in the final days and thought to yourself "give that woman a sandwich," "he was mad and it showed," "where are her girlfriends?", "he looks exhausted -- is he really up to the job?"

Serenity praying in politics can go a long way to restoring balance, resetting our GPS, and recharging us for the final push. So when you feel that Hunger Anger Loneliness or Tiredness -- don't double down -- HALT. Thrive on food, breathing, friends, and naps. You'll take yourselves and your candidates a lot farther.