Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who is Driving Your Bus?

We all have new hopes, dreams and objectives.

The question isn't whether we have them (we all do), but instead how we fulfill on them.

If your hopes, dreams and objectives that you have for your work and home life were a bus, who may I ask is driving it?

You see, many of us relegate the driving to someone else. When we have someone else driving our bus, it sounds like this:
I have no choice; I have to work 10 hour days to handle all the work
I am stuck, I have a job I hate, but my family depends on me
I never get to do what I want to do; I am just too busy with taking care of everyone else
I can't keep up; nobody seems to pick up the slack around here but me

We are trained to believe that putting our nose to the grind stone and just getting it done is the only way to free up time to accomplish our goals.

Quite the contrary, the more you do that, the further you are from fulfilling on your hopes, dreams and objectives. In fact, they move further and further away from you until one day you even forget what they were.

We believe that we must be self-less and jump at the every whim or need of those around us. You jump for bosses, for spouses, for children, for parents and for communities. Instead, you need to be self-interested and serve yourself first to be able to serve those around you in a way that doesn't destroy you.

While life often teaches us that it is critical to occasionally let go of the wheel of our bus and make way of uncontrollable external factors, it never requires us to fully relegate the driver's seat to those external factors or circumstances.

This became very clear to me last month.

At the end of 2009 my dear friend Jon died of a heart attack. He was 56. He was a loving friend, husband, and brother who did so much for others; all at the expense of himself.

A week before he died I had the opportunity to speak with him and he was stressed out to the max. He had just buried his mother and was the responsible one handling all the details left behind. He was burning the midnight oil at his job because he felt he had to in order to wrap up the year. I told him that he needed time and space to grieve and to rest. He knew he did too but he didn't stop. He felt he had to serve others and not let them down.

Jon was indisputably an amazing giver. He put others' needs often above his own. But, his giving was not sustainable. His heart gave out. Literally and figuratively, it gave out because he didn't take the time to fill it up. Unfortunately, he allowed others to drive his bus at the expense of himself.

At his funeral I learned that one of Jon's goals was to write a book so he would be remembered. He wanted to leave his mark and make an impact so that he was "not just a picture in the hall that hangs like an antiquity which third generation relatives point at and say: Who is that?" He believed that he had a life worth sharing.

And he did. But he never was able to do that.

Many of us are no different than Jon. We have purposeful hopes, dreams and goals. However, we let jobs or obligations drive us instead of us driving them.

I was no different. For more than 20 years I had no idea where my bus was going. I had lost sight of what mattered to me most and I jumped whenever anyone said jump.

It took lots of courage for me to move towards self-interest and move away from self-less behavior. It required me to say no more often or to propose a different way to get the job done so it also worked for my family and me. It meant disappointing people at times or simply dealing with my own internal judgments which often confuse self-interest with selfishness.

Driving your bus doesn't mean you don't want to help, support or do things for others. Quite the contrary; it means you want to be able to do this for the long-haul while preserving and nurturing yourself. This is the place where you have the ability to make your greatest impact.

The goal is to give your heart at work and at home, without having your heart give-out like Jon's.

So, I ask you again: who is driving your bus?

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