January 25, 2014

The Problem with Trying Hard.

I was riding shotgun—sitting in the passenger seat.

Aaron, my then 20-year-old son, was driving.

He picked me up at the airport and we were now weaving in and out of the afternoon traffic.

Up ahead, the traffic light went from green to yellow. Aaron gunned the engine and I let out a yelp.

To me, a yellow light means slow down and prepare to stop.
To Aaron, a yellow light means speed up and make it through the intersection before I have to stop.
We both recognize yellow lights as a warning. But this warning triggers very different responses for each of us.

Yellow lights aren’t only encountered while driving around town. Yellow lights are part of every conversation we have with people and with life.

We’re always in conversation with life.
Sometimes life “converses” with us through other people, sometimes through animals, trees, weather, or thoughts and emotions. In each of these conversations there can be yellow lights. Especially when we’re not listening.

Yellow lights are how life calls our attention.
So we slow down, listen more deeply and stop pursuing our agenda so doggedly. If the yellow light is coming from another person, they will be doing some or all of the following:

1) Disagreeing directly

2) Expressing doubt or concern

3) Asking a challenging question

4) Voicing an idea that you don’t agree with

5) Sending non-verbal signals of confusion, discomfort, disagreement or disinterest

These are all signs that they’re out of sync with what you’re saying, thinking, doing. You’re not connecting with them. They’re flashing a yellow light.

Sometimes life gives us a big flashing yellow light.
When we’re pushing a project so hard and nothing clicks, no doors open, everything is effort, effort, and struggle. It may be a yellow light—life’s way of inviting us to slow down…even to stop and reflect on why we’re pushing so hard.

What do we believe is at stake?

How has our sense of identity—of self-worth—become linked to the furthering of our agenda; the realization of our goal?

How we interpret yellow lights—whether from a person, a tree or any other life condition—will determine how we respond.

There’s a part in each of us that interprets yellow lights as the signal to speed up.
It’s that self-protective, reactive part of our neurology that sees a yellow light as a threat, not just to our agenda—but to our self-worth…our very life. Slowing down, losing momentum, taking time for reflection feels like dying.

This part of us reacts to yellow lights by pushing harder on the accelerator—flooding our body with adrenaline and our mind with racing thoughts. Vroom, vroom!
And then we miss out.

Whenever we blow past a yellow light, we miss the opportunity to make a stronger connection with life.
With another person, and our own deepest agenda—the one that is underneath, prior to, and more fundamental than whatever goal we’re pursuing so furiously.

Yes, there is a deeper agenda, a deeper purpose than the one our mind is focused on. That’s why the yellow light is flashing!

When we hit a yellow light—slow down.
Every yellow light is calling us to pay attention—not push.

Yellow lights—obstacles, obstructions, and objections—are telling us to slow down and shift from being so convinced & certain to being questioning & curious.

Yes! We should question the thoughts that are driving us and become curious and open, to what life (other people) is teaching us. When we’re curious, we naturally slow down to learn, investigate and pay attention.

Where can we find these yellow lights?
Wherever we’re pushing and defending—with grim determination—our rightness.

Where are yellow lights flashing in your life? Maybe it’s time to take your foot off the accelerator. Slow down. Be still. Listen.

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Imgur


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