Thursday, April 22, 2010

Message #4 - Stop Spinning Your Wheels!

This is the fourth in a series of messages:

Have you noticed how often you feel like you’re stuck in a vicious circle? Caught in a chain of events in which the solution of one problem creates a new more difficult problem?

A friend of mine has a slightly different take:

If you want to keep on getting what you’re getting

Keep on doing what you’re doing.

And an old Chinese proverb tells us:

If we don’t change our direction,

We are likely to end up where we are headed.

The French say “the more things change the more they stay the same.” (Yes, I know, they say it in French – “plus ca change, etc.”)

It seems that everybody’s got something to say on this subject. The end result? Everybody’s spinning their wheels talking about people spinning their wheels. And the wheels keep spinning. Stop Spinning Your Wheels!

How can you break a vicious circle? Begin by simplifying the phenomenon. This will be Spinning Your Wheels 101. The Advanced Course can wait. Later you can deal with new problems that may arise or changing the direction you’re headed or changing anything else. For now, let’s stay with what my friend said: what you’re doing isn’t working. Yet you keep doing it.

Go back to a time when you got stuck in snow or mud. No big problem, right? Just give it a little more gas and you’ll be on your way. So you do. Your wheels spin and you stay stuck. Hum! Accelerate a little more. That should do it. Your wheels spin faster. Not only are you still stuck, you’re in a deeper hole than you were before.

We’re not talking about some mystical, arcane experience that rarely happens here. We’re talking about your life. This has happened to you. You can relate to what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t been stuck in snow or mud, you’ve been stuck in something else. You’ve tried spinning your wheels and it didn’t work. So you spun them harder. Remember?

It might have been in a relationship that was in trouble. It might have been with a boss or colleague at work. It might have been in school. Or on the playground. Or dealing with your parents. Or all of the above.

If spinning your wheels doesn’t work, then what? Here’s the bad news: There’s no magic bullet. There’s no one method for getting unstuck. Anyone who tries to sell you on the notion that she has the answer is blowing smoke. Avoid the one-size-fits-all approach.

You want to climb up a mountain. At the bottom you see a trail headed up. This looks good, so off you go. Before long you reach an impassable stream. Ooops! You turn around and look for another trail. You find one and take it. After a while you come to a chasm that you can’t cross. Double Ooops!! Eventually, if you search long enough you’ll probably find a way to the top. But the hit or miss method is a frustrating, wasteful way to live your life. It’s another example of spinning your wheels – and then spinning them some more.

If you had been able to look down from the top of the mountain before you began your trek you’d have seen many different ways to make the climb. Some would be better than others, but you’d be able to avoid the dead ends.

Now don’t get literal on me here. I know that you can’t beam yourself up to the top and look over the terrain in advance. And I know there’s no guarantee you’ll find the best trail on the first try. But I also know that you don’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting they’ll give you different results. They won’t. Like my friend said, if you keep on doing what you’re doing you’ll keep on getting what you’re getting.

There’s another possibility, and that’s the good news.

What happened when spinning your wheels made your problem worse? Eventually you decided you had to try something else. You got people to push you out of the muck. You called a tow truck. You managed to get your car rocking back and forth and with just a little acceleration got traction.

Try communicating differently to the person with whom you have a relationship problem. Try seeing it from the other person’s point of view. Try assuming that maybe, just maybe, that guy knows what he’s talking about. Consider the possibility that the umpire was right when he called your player out.

Stop being a stubborn, self-righteous asshole.

Stop Spinning Your Wheels!


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