What are the hurdles you are facing in your work life today? What are the problems keeping you from reaching your Far Edge of Promise? Go ahead, list them.
Not enough budget? Not the right people on the team? Not enough people on the team? Too much bureaucracy? A micro-managing boss? Support staff that doesn’t take initiative? What else?
As we get older, we tend to view hurdles not as speed bumps to jump over or get around, but as barriers that are almost impossible to overcome. But each of us has always faced and conquered hurdles. Think back to when you were a kid on a playground. Nothing was impossible. “Tomorrow,” you would tell yourself, “I’m going further on the monkey bars!” And you would. If you fell and skinned a knee and your hands, guess what? They healed and you came right back for more.
You see, the real problem isn’t the hurdles we face, it’s our response. We freeze. Or we cower. Or we retreat before even trying a solution. Or we accept the status quo. Or we do all of these and more.
I think we respond so feebly to our hurdles today because we think we know the outcome before we even try. We have the experience of falling off the monkey bars and skinning our knee. And it hurt. To protect ourselves from future harm, our brains recall the pain of the skinned knee far more vividly than it remembers the joy of finally conquering the monkey bars.
Our real problem is that we let our instinct to protect ourselves from authentic life-and-death problems intervene inappropriately. Yes, you should freeze, retreat, and do whatever else you need to do to survive when you come across a bear in the woods, but our work isn’t quite so dramatic or life-threatening. We’re talking about finding creative solutions for workplace problems, not protecting ourselves from physical harm.
When we let our protective instinct intervene and walk away from our hurdles, we don’t explore new options. We don’t think. We don’t create. We don’t stretch ourselves and inspire others. We don’t encourage. We don’t make things better. And that makes our world grow ever smaller and our work less significant. It makes us obsolete.
So as you end 2011 and prepare for 2012, go ahead and jump a few hurdles. Fight your instinct which is your real hurdle. Yes, you’ll fall and skin a knee or two in the process. But you’ll also grow as a professional, gain more meaning from your work, get better outcomes, and have more fun. And, your scars will make for a fantastic story.
Just remember: It can’t be that hard – kids do it every day.