Yesterday I was driving and saw a sign that told me that the lane I was driving in was ending soon. It was a valuable sign. It warned me that I was going to have to make plans for a future that didn’t involve that lane. And soon.
I quickly began making plans to exit my current lane. I had to. It offered no long term prospects. I soon found a perfectly good lane next to the one I was in. I turned on my left blinker, checked for cars, and finding none I merged onto the adjacent lane. And all was good again.
The thing about lanes.
All lanes end eventually. Just ask the leadership team at Blockbuster, or Chuck E Cheese’s. Or Lemmings. The key is knowing when it is time to find a new option.
We don’t always get a clear sign that our lane is coming to an end. But tastes and technologies change. Jobs end. School ends. And bad habits run out of runway at some point. When they do you are forced to choose something new.
Lanes offer us a path for now. But not forever. Throughout your life and career, you will have to make choices and changes. You can plan, and make changes proactively. Or you can wait until the lane is gone, you are stopped on the shoulder, and the 18-wheelers won’t move over to let you in.
COVID-19 brought lanes to an end.
The racism lane is coming to an end.
Drugs and alcohol abuse lanes are bumpy and popular. But short.
Change is constant. Get used to it. Prepare for it. Get good at it. And you’ll find that new and better lanes are easier to find.
2020 has been a challenging year. It has served up more flavors of adversity than Baskin Robbins has ice cream. Like COVID-19 itself, no one is immune to the stress in our system right now.
We need to recognize the pressure the people on our planet are feeling. Because pressure makes humans make poor decisions.
Under stressful conditions, bad choices compound. The result is escalation. A simmer becomes a boil. Smoke becomes fire. Self-control evaporates. I’ve been there. I’ve felt it in myself. I’ve seen it in others. It’s intensely powerful. And destructive.
Escalation brings out the worst in us. Yet it comes naturally. We all have the ability to trump a bad action or a bad comment with an even worse response. It becomes a competition to see who can inflict more pain, create more damage and elicit more anger. But it’s a competition that no one wins.
Yet escalation happens in homes and schools. It happens in the workplace. It happens in hockey games. And in bars where people watch hockey games. Escalation happens when police officers lose touch with their humanity. And when angry protestors don’t feel like their point is being received.
What The World Needs Now
What is less natural, but far more valuable, is de-escalation. Removing the tension from a situation. Recognizing when a poor decision by someone else requires a good decision by you, and me.
Don’t respond to anger with more anger, but with empathy. We need to demonstrate that we are listening. That we understand. And we are willing to make things better. Because there are times when we all need someone else to step in and help us adjust our settings when we can’t self regulate.
Calmness and compassion are as contagious as anger and fear.
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