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Speed, Accidents, and Anxiety

Speed, Accidents, and Anxiety

You’re driving along the freeway. The traffic is heavy and the weather is bad; there’s water on the road and occasional patches of ice. You’re already late for an appointment and you’re worrying that your boss is going to find out and get mad at you, so you’re driving way too fast for the conditions. Everyone else seems to be in a hurry too. Your hands are gripping the wheel fiercely and you’re concentrating as hard as you can on simply staying on the road. You wish you could slow down, but that doesn’t seem possible, so you’re scared they’ll be an accident any minute with you in it.

Then a huge truck comes up behind you, driving really fast. The driver starts flashing the headlights and blaring the horn for you to go even faster. You put on a little extra speed, but your car feels unstable on the wet road. The truck presses close on the rear of your car, still flashing those lights. All you can see in the mirror is the truck’s radiator, inches from the back of your vehicle. The truck’s horn is still blaring and every time you speed up even a little, that truck is right there pushing you still faster. There’s no let up. The vehicle in front of you is disappearing in spray, there’s another alongside you and now the rain is coming down as well. The slightest problem and you know the resulting accident is going to kill and maim scores of people, including you.

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How do you feel?

Well, that’s just about how many people feel every day at work. They’re being pushed to go faster and faster, until they know that they have no margin of safety. Once an organization gets the idea that making everyone work faster—increasing the pressure and driving people to their limits and beyond—is going to push up productivity and profits, there’s no obvious limit. It’s as if they start by pushing everyone up to 75 mph, then 80 mph, then 100 mph or beyond. Most people don’t have the skill, or inclination, to go at that speed. It’s too scary. But your boss, like the eighteen wheeler in my picture, is on your tail, forcing you to go faster and faster. Someone is going to crash and burn very soon. Maybe that someone is you.

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This brute force approach to productivity is all the rage today. Innovation, creativity, and fresh thinking are all seen as too slow and uncertain. Never mind that they are the only real ways to increase productivity long term, it’s the short-term that matters: meet the target for the next quarterly figures and to hell with anything else.

The result is a workplace culture that’s like driving flat-out on wet slippery roads with traffic all around you. It’s full of reluctant high-speed, high-anxiety drivers under constant pressure to go still faster, with every likelihood of accidents. There’s no let up. because the prevailing organizational attitude is that if you can’t stand the pace, you can just get off the road and make way for someone who can.

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So far as we know, each of us has only one lifetime. To spend it rushing ahead in blind terror, with no time to enjoy the ride, doesn’t seem much of a prospect. Like the driver who knows he or she is going far too fast, you cannot enjoy the journey or look around you to admire the view. Maybe your organization believes that by working this way it will make a little more money next quarter, but if the long-term prospect is being crushed and maimed that hardly seems much compensation. Maybe it’s time for some organizational speed limits to prevent testosterone-fueled bosses from risking everyone else’s necks except their own.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his posts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership.

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Last Updated on September 15, 2020

7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

7 Helpful Reminders When You Want to Make Big Life Changes

Overcoming fear and making life changes is hard. It’s even harder when it’s a big change—breaking up with someone you love, leaving your old job, starting your own business, or hundreds of other difficult choices.

Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

We worry: how do we know if we’re making the right decision? We wish we knew more. How do we make a decision without all of the necessary information?

We feel stuck. How do we get past fear and move forward with that thing we want to do?

Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are 7 things to remember when you want to move forward and make positive life changes.

1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

We often avoid making important decisions because we want more information before we make a tough call.

Yes, it’s certainly true that you need to do your research, but if you’re waiting for the crystal clear answer to come to you, then you’re going to be waiting a long time. As humans, we are curious creatures, and our need for information can be paralyzing.

Life is a series of guesses, mistakes, and revisions. Make the best decision you can at the time and continue to move forward. This also means learning to listen to and trust your intuition. Here’s how.

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2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

We make all sorts of excuses for not making important life changes, but the limiting belief that often underlies many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to do the right thing.

We think that if we get into a new situation, we won’t know what to do or how to react. We’re worried that the uncharted territory of the future will be too much for us to handle.

Give yourself more credit than that.

You’ve dealt with unexpected changes before, right? And when your car got a flat tire on the way to work, how did that end up? Or when you were unexpectedly dumped?

In the end, you were fine.

Humans are amazingly adaptable, and your whole life has been helping you develop skills to face unexpected challenges.

Have enough courage to trust yourself. No matter what happens, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.

3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Like jealousy, most of your fears are created in your own head.

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When you actually sit down and think about the worst case scenario, you’ll realize that there are actually very few risks that you can’t recover from.

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Once you realize the worst isn’t that bad, you’ll be ready to crush it.

When you’re preparing to make a big life change, write down all of the things you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of failing? Of looking silly? Of losing money? Of being unhappy?

Then, address each fear by writing down ways you can overcome them. For example, if you’re afraid of losing money, can you take a few months to save up a safety net?

4. It’s Just as Much About the Process as It Is About the Result

We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

However, you’re allowed to change your mind. And failing will only help you learn what not to do next time.

Furthermore, just because you don’t reach the final goal doesn’t mean you failed. You chose the goal in the first place, but you’re allowed to alter it if you find that the goal isn’t working out the way you hoped. Failure is not a destination, and neither is success.

Enjoy the process of moving forward[2].

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5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

If you’re on the fence about a big decision, then you might be worried about getting locked into a position that you can’t escape from.

Think about it a different way. New choices rarely limit your options.

In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

If you pursue the interesting opportunities that arise along the path to your goal, then you can be sure that you’ll always have choices.

6. Effort Matters, So Use It

It sounds simple, but one of the big reasons we don’t make life changes is because we don’t try. And we don’t try because then it’s easy to make excuses for why we don’t get what we want.

Flunked that test? Are you stupid? “Of course I’m not stupid. I just didn’t study. I would have gotten an A if I actually studied.”

Stuck in a job you hate? Why haven’t you found a new job yet? “Well, I haven’t really tried to get a new job. I could totally ace that interview if I wanted.”

Why do we make excuses like these to ourselves? It’s because if we try and fail, then we just failed. But if we don’t try, we can chalk it up to laziness.

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Get over it. Failure happens to everyone.

And the funny thing is, if you actually try—because it’s pretty clear that most people aren’t trying—then you’ll win a lot more than you think.

7. Start With Something Manageable

You can’t climb Everest if you don’t try hiking beforehand.

Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

Can you talk to someone who already has that position and see what they think makes them successful? Can you improve your skills so you meet one of the qualifications? Can you take a free online course to expand your resume?

Maybe you’re not quite ready for a long-term relationship, but you know you want to start dating. Could you try asking out a mutual friend? Can you go out more with friends to practice your communication skills and meet new people?

You don’t need to be a world changer today; you just need to make small life changes in your own world.

More Tips to Help You Make Life Changes

Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com

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