The other day I was driving my son to school, and it seemed like every single light we came across turned red just as we approached it. Naturally my son became exasperated, saying, “No! Another red light! Another red light! Darn it, why are there so many red lights?!” It was a sentiment we’ve all felt at one point or another.
His frustration got me thinking. It reminded me of all the various obstacles we stumble upon in our everyday routines, our life paths, and our leadership journeys. We’re always trying to do better for ourselves, to engage more deeply with our teams, to bring our leadership skills to the next level. But invariably, something always comes up: you’re delegated emergency projects, your boss makes a difficult request, you find yourself putting out little fires left and right. These hurdles often make us fall back on our old habits out of sheer frustration, and it’s dangerously easy to slip back into unproductive behaviors.
We’ve all been there. Despite our highest hopes for nothing but green lights, life keeps dealing us red ones instead. Just like on the road, there’s no getting around these red lights at work, and there’s no doubt we’ll encounter them at one point or another.
But how can we reframe these roadblocks as challenges designed to make us stronger? How can we conceptualize these obstacles as opportunities to instill resilience and adaptability in our problem solving skills?
We need to think of all the red lights we come across—whether in traffic or the workplace—as mere pauses, and unexpected chances to recalibrate our strategies. If we simply sit and exist in these pauses without judgment, we can allow our environment to resonate with us on a more meaningful level. Maybe these frequent pauses help us be mindful of our surroundings, or patient with ourselves and others, or more thoughtful in how we persevere after a brief moment of rest and reflection. I’ve found that having faith in barriers as invaluable learning opportunities often inspires greater growth and perspective after overcoming them.
Perhaps this past year has felt like one seemingly endless red light; I surely wouldn’t blame you. But ask any effective business leader, and they will tell you that some of the best opportunities for enlightened innovation come under the guise of widespread disruption and chaos.
Though it is easier said than done, holding out hope in our darkest days may be our most useful tool for survival. Choose faith over frustration, and rest assured that eventually—however improbable it may seem—the light will turn green.