As a self-professed over thinker, over planner and safety elephant* one of my small, nit-picky quirks is that I get agitated if the gas gauge in the car I am riding in is below a quarter of a tank. In my world, a quarter of a tank means that you are in danger of hitting empty and you need to refill before the tank gets any lower. I don’t like to push it…I see no need to push it…and I like knowing there is a buffer before it reaches rock bottom. There has only been one example that I can ever think of where we actually ran out of gas. We went to California as a family and we literally coasted on fumes into the gas station…nothing left in the tank. We were lucky we were so close to the gas station and even still…as we were sitting at the stoplight right across from the gas station…there were a few moments when we thought we were going to have to get out and push the van through the intersection to get there. So close to refilling…too close for comfort…but as my husband will proudly say…”we made it…I wasn’t worried”.
Right now…I think a lot of folks are getting close to “running out of gas” as the weeks turn into months of the “new normal”. It also goes without saying…that it is an unusual time with the change in work dynamics as well as at home. Where our “go to” ways of refueling are not necessarily available to us and the stress seems to be coming from all sides.
So if anyone was already low on gas coming into the current situation they are most likely running on fumes and the gas station that they thought was in sight is somehow closed for the season. The tank is empty and life is testing them to their very limits. They have to find the energy to accept their situation, leave the car and start walking with the gas can in their hand to get the fuel they so desperately need.
Over the years…I have been asked…
“What do you do when you run out of gas, how do you keep going?”
I have to declare that I really don’t have a good answer…that I have not been out of gas like some others have been out of gas. I have always been fortunate enough to recognize that I am running low and take measures to recharge so I can face the busy days and weeks still to come. I think sometimes we just need to know that being lost, and finding it hard is just the way it is. That no one has the answer and that we are just meant to find our own way. We don’t need others to give us a pep talk, sometimes it is just about finding a sympathetic ear to simply say “I am sorry that it is hard right now and if there is anything I can do to lighten your load let me know”.
As leaders we not only have to fill OUR gas tanks but we are called upon to be role models and help those around us fill up their tanks too. We pick ourselves up and do what needs to be done…because that is just what we do. When you see leaders doing just this…it is a gift and is more precious than people give those that do it credit for. Those that give so much, walk for miles for gas even after the tank is dry and often give whatever gas they have to those they meet along the road….that is just who they are. In some ways they are self-propelled but we can never forget to help them replenish…it is important for them but also for those of us who rely upon them.
So here is a shout out to all those leaders who despite long hours… pressure & stress (both personal & professional) continue to lead and lift the spirits of others in a moment when they need it most. Here also is a shout out to the teammates who are doing their jobs faithfully and lightening the loads of others (both at home and at work). Your dedication, sense of humor…and sense of community is making a difference whether you know it or not!
Lastly, I read an article a while ago titled “22 things Happy People Do Differently”. Maybe those that have the ability to choose happiness also have the ability to refill the tank…become self propelled…motivate those around them and keep going when the road ahead seems very long. Number 22 fits the bill in my mind for the time we are in…”Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.”
Leadership questions of the week for YOU:
- What is the most out of gas you have ever been?
- What advice would you give to someone who is out of gas or how would you suggest as leaders and friends we support them?
- What do you believe are the qualities in those that have the gift of going on and supporting so many when others just lie down and give up?
- Which of the things that happy people do differently resonated with you and do you believe that has anything to do with being able to go on when you are out of gas?”
Thanks for reading and remember…YOU make a difference!
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*Anyone remember Elmer the Safety Elephant ? Maybe just a Canadian thing….