Cruising down the highway at a brick pace of 75 mph and feeling great, I noticed that the lanes traveling from the opposite direction were at a complete standstill. I felt the frustration all the way from my side of the highway. I discovered an accident blocking the high occupancy (HOV) lanes, and basically imprisoning all the drivers behind it. Drivers on my side of the highway began to slow down to witness the destruction, almost tantalizing those frustrated and stuck. I witnessed a range of emotions in the drivers waiting for the accident to clear: boredom, frustration, and fatigue, to name a few. They sat bumper to bumper helpless.
As I gained distance from the accident, I saw drivers beginning to turn into the HOV lane, unknowing what awaited them. Those wise enough to be using Waze or Google Maps - apps providing real-time traffic updates - were seen swerving off the highway to avoid the mess. Yet, many other drivers were not as lucky.
This uncanny situation mirrored what I have experienced in my career and my life. Sometimes we can anticipate a looming roadblock ahead. Through careful planning, organization, and experience - anticipating challenges feels almost intuitive.
Other times, roadblocks pop up out of nowhere. These forced pauses come up suddenly and there’s literally nothing we can do. No amount of preparation can remedy the situation when you’re already sitting in gridlock.
I wished I could warn the earnest drivers heading into the traffic jam, but unfortunately, as they turned into the high occupancy lane there wasn’t anything I could do. Being a witness to this common occurrence served as a reminder that we never know what lies ahead. We may have a straight shot or we could face two hours of wheel-gripping frustration.
There’s a way to use these types of blocks to our advantage. By asking, “If I’m going to be stuck here, what can I do with my time,” you may be able to unleash your hidden potential and unlock additional productive or self-care hours into your week.
What Others Say About Gridlock
Jennifer is a mother of three young children, who barely has time to wash her hair, let alone take a meditation or yoga class. When unforeseen pauses pop up, she gives herself 5 minutes to freak out and think of every worst case possibility. Then, she tunes into a meditation or breathing playlist on Spotify and practices meditative breathing or chanting. The practice reduces her stress hormones, helps her make healthier choices, and arrive at her destination unhinged.
Chase is a young professional working in middle management at a financial services firm. He wants to climb the ladder and move into upper management and believes that an MBA degree would help. He has opted to take classes towards the degree and always chooses distance learning classrooms. This helps him take classes at Stanford and Yale without actually being on campus. He actually welcomes these forced breaks because he tunes into his lectures and moves forward to his goal.
Consider These Prompts
- Can I listen to something educational?
- Can I text or call someone?
- Can I work on a vision or brainstorm a project or problem?
- How can I reflect on my life?
- How can I work towards a goal?
When you’re struggling to get out of the funk, try to flip it from anger to gratitude. For example: I have a functioning car. I’m in gridlock, but I’m not in the accident.
Some days just feel like bad days, but that doesn't mean my life or career or relationship are bad. At any time, we can change our perspective, by acknowledging what’s going right. Everyone has at least ten things that they can be thankful for. When we flip our mental perspective, it opens us up to be aware of better opportunities. I love when people are 5 minutes late because it gives me 5 minutes to meditate.
If you would like to learn techniques to Flip the Script, let's grab a call to discuss booking an interactive session at your workplace.
It is possible for you to become grateful for these unplanned pauses when you realize how to leverage them to catapult your personal and professional success.
Have a wonderful week sharing gratitude!