Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shift Out of Neutral

Have you ever accidentally knocked your transmission into neutral? The light turns green, you hit the gas, and you’re met with a roar from the engine. Then a louder roar. You realize you aren’t going anywhere, and you have 15 cars behind you honking and hands waving out windows flashing you the one-fingered peace sign.

Believe it or not, many of us live our lives in neutral – but usually it’s by design, not by accident. And, all the while, we are holding things up – not only for ourselves, but for countless others who are ready to keep on moving.

You can normally identify the “neutral” crowd pretty easily. They may be disguised, but sooner or later, some pretty telling signs make their way to the surface. See if any of these sound familiar:

• Too much sleep – People who are spinning their wheels but getting nowhere often do nothing but sleep. They sleep until late morning or early afternoon, and are lazy (I’m not talking about people who work the night shift). Further, it’s a sign of depression and low self-esteem.
• Procrastination – A clear sign of running in place is putting things off until later (with no intention of ever doing anything). When you repeatedly hear someone say, “I’ve just been too busy, I need to wait until things settle down,” or, “I’ve been meaning to do that, I just haven’t gotten around to it,” you can bet that someone’s burning fuel while idling.
• Non-Committal – People just don’t commit to things anymore. I’ll admit – I have a ton of flaws, but when I make a commitment, I am in. I am reliable and dependable, and I take great pride in that. I am the exception nowadays, not the rule. Committed, dependable people are valuable beyond measure in today’s culture. Many people give a half-hearted effort or level of commitment to many things, fooling themselves into believing that they are over-achievers. In reality, they are spread too thin and end up hurting themselves and others by not fully devoting themselves to someone or something.
• Few (if any) friends – People in neutral may have a lot of acquaintances, but few (or zero) true meaningful relationships. Because they either don’t believe they have anything to offer anyone, or because they are oblivious to the needs of others, they rob themselves of the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of other people. See numbers 1, 2, and 3 above as to why this might be the case.
• Are consumers, not investors – Let’s face it, people want what they want. They want nicer things, newer things, expensive things. Temporary things, not eternal things. You can determine the things that matter most to people by looking at their calendar (or PDA) and their bank account. The time and money we spend speaks volumes about our character and our priorities. Does any of your time and money go to serve others or to provide for others in need? Or are you only padding your wallet, or buying things that will wind up in next year’s yard sale?

If you find yourself marked by any of these characteristics, it’s time for a change. Grab the stick shift and move it into first gear (not overdrive). Get involved, get to know people, and invest in things that will last beyond yourself. Automobiles aren’t built to sit in neutral. They’re designed to get people from Point A to Point B – and to their ultimate destination. Get out of neutral, and discover the road you were meant to travel all along!

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