Watch the traffic, not the people, or you just might get run over
Posted January 24, 2019

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I was about 13-years-old, and visiting a friend who lived in Manhattan. I was a Long Island kid and was not as experienced as Paul at navigating the craziness of the City. We were headed somewhere and came up to an intersection. I could see the light was changing to red, and I was following his lead and as he stepped off the curb. I assumed that meant we were going to make a move across the street despite the traffic signal. I was wrong. With his casual style and experience of having been raised on the Upper East Side, Paul had every intention of stopping in the street. I kept going and narrowly missed being flattened by a NYC cab. Mostly because of the fear that evoked as well as the embarrassment of not knowing better, that incident reserved a permanent spot in my memory.

Years later when that experience popped into my consciousness, I summed it up with the observation to “watch the traffic, not the people.” By watching only those nearby, I was missing the bigger picture of what was happening further out, and it almost cost me my life.

When we listen only to those closest to us, we run the risk of missing opportunities.

This tendency is not unlike the pattern of creating our bubble that is reinforced by the information we can select, and people we choose to listen to and those we want to ignore. We can create our own reality that makes sense to us, but it might not be the best thing for us in the long term, and we might be missing significant factors just outside our bubble that could present exciting opportunities.

It’s scary to push out the boundaries of your near-in experiences to not merely focus on the people or situations right in front of you. Past experiences and fear of the unknown all contribute to a reluctance to move forward. It takes confidence that is sometimes hard to come by to make that push or even to consider listening to other voices.

Seeing people move forward is perhaps the most gratifying part of being a coach. When clients are making the big life-shifts like a job change or retirement, and I see them looking at their options differently, it’s powerful. More immediate challenges, such as managing conflict in a working relationship, are often discussed when in a coaching engagement. Bringing about change can happen quickly for the client by gaining a broader perspective that coaching delivers.

So often we are locked into a mindset of only looking at what is immediately around us, that we cannot see further ahead and what might be. We allow the fears, experiences, and voices to hold us back from pursuing options that might change our lives. How many times have you thrown an idea out there to change course, and have friends or family not daydream with you of how to make it happen, but instead focus on all the reasons it probably won’t work. All too often we tend to look at what’s wrong rather than what’s right. The result is a diminished capacity to aspire or dream.

Having the confidence to look ahead and seize change is not easy. We talk ourselves into playing safe, and out of dreaming big. Or, when we do imagine big, we lack the resources and stamina to seize what might be.

You bring more to the table than you think. Look back at all your wins and successes. Use those examples to give you the confidence to look at each situation, think for yourself, and move forward with confidence.

Read more about the things that prevent us from moving forward with The Impact of Confidence: 7 Secrets of Success for the Human Side of Leadership by Timothy J. Ressmeyer (2018) from which this excerpted. Available on Amazon

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