“I’LL SLOW DOWN WHEN…” AND OTHER LIES WE TELL OURSELVES (AND OTHERS!)
If you’re like most senior leaders you have probably said some version of this many times- to your spouse, parents kids, even to yourself. And if you’re just starting out in your career, there’s a trick in here that you probably haven’t seen yet.
TRUTH ABOUT TREADMILLS
This phenomenon is so common that we have a hundred phrases for it, all of them involving things we do to lab animals (like rat race and hamster wheel). I’ll use a more human metaphor- the treadmill.
A chronic sense of desperate urgency and a perpetual sense of rush are two hallmarks of the modern fairytale. This is what I am calling the treadmill.
If you are one of those people whose mind is always somewhere else, somewhere other than where you physically are at this very moment, you are on that treadmill.
There are two things about a treadmill that highlight under-appreciated truths about this way of living:
- You never get anywhere.
- Unlike the lab rat who doesn’t get to choose to leave the lab, you get to choose when to get on and off the treadmill and at what speed.
Here’s the thing though, the rat race is not in your schedule or your demanding boss or your very stressful industry.
The rat race is in your head.
It’s a way of thinking that unimportant things are important and optional things are urgent.
The rat race, the hamster wheel, the treadmill- these are descriptions of an inner condition- a state of mind– not of outward circumstances. It describes an inner sense that your life is beyond your control.
KEY TO THE KINGDOM
This ‘rat race’ you are in is a train of thought that tells you there is always a next thing you have to do, become, earn before you are allowed to be happy, take time off or make choices that serve your long term goals.
It is a way of thinking that convinces you there’s a ‘there’ to get to and so you keep rushing, ignoring the important, scrambling your way to ‘there’ telling yourself when you get ‘there’ you will have time & attention for the people, causes and dreams that actually matter to you.
As long as you convince yourself there is a number, job title or business outcome out there that you will reach and it will be ‘happily ever after’ you are trapped by your own misreading of the situation- you notice that number keeps changing?
The sense of ‘not enough’ that drives urgency, prompts irrational decisions and seems to gobble up every spare byte of your mental bandwidth- that sense of ‘not enough’ is a feeling. It’s not a thing ‘out there’ and it’s not a truth about physical reality or your life’s reality.
When you realize that your feelings are reflections of an inner state, a way of thinking, you see where you lost your way and regain the perspective to make your way out of the maze.
You become able to see for yourself a way out of unhelpful patterns and a way into healthier ones.
This is not a call to quit work, dump ambition and watch the clouds pass overhead for months on end. This is a call to regain what you have always had but forgotten- intelligence to figure out what’s important to you and what’s not.
Having said that, don’t dismiss my cloud watching suggestion entirely- there is something to be said for allowing your mind to slow down enough to appreciate the great stillness and the constants in life.
With presence comes perspective.
With Presence Comes Perspective and a Way Out of the Maze
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