We live in the proverbial “rat race.” The frenetic demands of career, relationships, continuing education, and a bevy of other stressors often place incredible demands on our calendars and quality of life. Add Trump, Mueller, and Schumer drama to the daily routine and rush, then you better hold on tight. The question is, what do we do about it all? In two words, we Change Lanes. Like cars “stuck” behind semis on the interstate, our brains tend to get locked into unproductive and unhealthy patterns of thinking. I will never finish this. I will never do what I love. Nothing ever changes. When we lose sight of our values and vision, it is imperative that we adjust our perspective, that is, change lanes in our thinking.
Where to begin? Avoid Florida drivers. It’s a long story; I digress. For starters, ask yourself at the end of the work day, “Am I driving in circles or do I have a destination in mind?” If you’re “driving in circles,” what do you need to do to reclaim some purpose for your personhood? I’m not talking about the detours or exit ramps at this point, I’m talking about lane changes, the tweaks. Is it time to decelerate, pull to the right, and concentrate on self-care? Maybe it’s time to accelerate the honing of your resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile. One of my most effective lane changes included a side hustle that I leveraged into innovative entrepreneurship. Maybe you’re already considering a lane change but just haven’t turned the wheel, yet. Is right now your moment? The challenge – and opportunity – is to get out of the traffic so you can see the road.
The Power of a Destination
The late, great Steve Jobs once quipped, “Why join the navy when you can be a pirate?” While Jobs lauded and deployed the power and potential of risks, he always had destinations, that is, goals in mind. Buy lots of Levi’s and black turtlenecks, destroy Microsoft, double-park my Gold Mercedes. What’s your destination? Or is it destinations? Do you seek a certain lifestyle and income? Would you like to contribute something innovative and singular to your field? Do you simply want to come home from work with enough juice in the tank to enjoy your family or the weekends? An easy way to craft vocational and personal goals begins with pen and paper. Every January, craft an annual vision and mission statement for yourself. Here’s what I want my life to look like on December 31 and here’s I’ll get there! As you encounter opportunities, perceived threats, and risks along the way, ask yourself… Does it serve my vision and mission or does it diminish them? Evaluate your progress as you move toward your destination. If you run into trouble along the way, do not be afraid to revisit the vision and mission and adjust both if needed. Speaking of trouble, let me offer a few thoughts about traffic.
Understanding and Overcoming Traffic
Economic gurus tell us that every business plan eventually loses steam. Just ask the folks at Blockbuster. This Law of Diminishing Returns essentially states when input exceeds output, it’s time to review and retool the plan. Imagine a company initially earmarking $1 for marketing, product, sales, and overhead and making $1.50 for every dollar invested. Not a bad return on investment. Fast-forward six months, and that same $1 investment is only returning $1.02. Are the two cents worth the time? Probably not unless your matching Amazon’s volume.
In the same way, we can find ourselves losing steam in our careers, relationships, and personal management activities when our old methodologies – roadmaps – no longer provide a worthwhile return on investment. Sometimes, the outcome (the destination) is no longer viable either. The fast lane that once offered substantial revenue, career advancement, and personal satisfaction can quickly feel more like Toronto’s 401 Highway at 5 pm because of changes in our context or changes within us. Gridlock.
What do you do when you’re in traffic? Understand its source and decide whether to reroute or wait it out. When you recognize that the source of the diminishing returns – the burnout – is internal, it’s time to seek some outside insight. If you have the means, connect with a vocational coach or a counselor. Yes, a shrink. The point of seeking support is to articulate your situation, receive some feedback, and then craft several action steps. If you feel comfortable talking about your burnout or botched plans with a knowledgeable colleague, make the phone call. Talking about the traffic in your life with a professional, partner, or trusted colleague is not an admission of defeat, rather it’s a display of personal integrity and confidence.
When I was living in NYC, I learned quickly that the traffic and insatiable noise was part of the City’s ethos. I couldn’t change it, so I had to live with it. If the traffic in your life is external, like an issue with your employer, partner, etc., ask yourself if you have the power to initiate and sustain a change that will bring positive impacts. If you do not have the tools to address the external concern, who does? Seek out helpers that understand the road and know how to help.
Sometimes your continued success and health require driving solo. Said another way, many of your most impactful decisions center on selfcare. If the traffic is at a standstill, or you just feel compelled to enjoy a vista or siesta, it’s okay to shelve some commitments and responsibilities while you recharge and review the map. In concrete terms, driving solo means taking on a massage, a fitness class, a good book, or a glass of wine. Will it encourage you to unwind? Then do it. As long as it’s legal (If you live in BC or Colorado, you’re probably okay). Driving solo also entails giving yourself permission to say “No!” to some of the numerous networking opportunities and social engagements that fill your calendar. If you’re especially road weary, it’s acceptable to take a vacation as well, leaving the phone and laptop behind so that you can truly disengage from the rat race. Even Job’s shelved the Levis’ and turtlenecks for the Tevas and margaritas.
Driving in circles? Going nowhere fast? Is the old route our routine no longer offering a good return on investment? Change lanes. The sooner the better.