August 29, 2013 – Recently I was reminded of the childhood game we used to play in the school yard during recess: Red Light, Green Light, 1, 2, 3 (“RLGL”). Remember the game? The person who’s IT turns away from the pack, recites the phrase “Red Light, Green, Light, 1, 2, 3,” while the pack runs forward. The pack must freeze when IT finishes reciting RLGL. At each recitation the pack gets closer to IT with the goal of getting close enough to tag IT and run back to the starting point before being tagged back by IT. The pack member who succeeds becomes the new IT.
Ah, a wonderful childhood game from the days of our youth, when children engaged in such social, physical, outdoor activities together.
So what is the relevance of RLGL to the issues we’ve discussed previously in this blog?
Although the rules of RLGL are fairly straightforward and the goal is clear – be the first to tag IT – there are many potential challenges and roadblocks along the way: Run faster than the rest of the pack, jockey for position, freeze in place instantly, run fast again, tag IT before anyone else, etc.
The constant alternating between running quickly and freezing in place instantly is perhaps the biggest challenge and is implicit in one of the other names for RLGL: “Statues.” When the pack members freeze in place they must stand as motionless as statues. No moving, no flinching. Players may get so caught up in the running that they fail to freeze and must start over. Or players may get so caught up in freezing that they fail to start running again. Either way, they may fail to win the game.
How often do we realize we’ve been slowing to a standstill even after a tremendous initial push forward to achieving our goals? Or perhaps we realize we’ve become sidetracked from our goal. RLGL, we’ve become like statues vis a vis achieving our primary goal.
So what happened? Simply put, we lost our focus and lost sight of our goal. And when we lose our focus, our perception is that we suddenly “find” ourselves in a new situation which we didn’t anticipate. We all act surprised when this happens; yet there should be no surprise in this. The reality is that by losing our focus, we place ourselves in a new situation.
How do we get past this “finding” ourselves in a new situation?
One method is to formulate long term and short term goals. These goals might be totally unrelated, or the short term goals might simply be stepping stones to achieving the long term goal. Formulating these long term and interim goals gives us a method to measure our path to success, and ensures that we travel paths we actively choose for ourselves. Doing so gives us a true roadmap for our activities every day. By sticking to the roadmap we won’t get sidetracked and “find” ourselves someplace new and unplanned for. And by always consulting the roadmap we have a tool to decide when, if and how to take an alternate route or choose an entirely new destination. We will know whether the unexpected stop is an interim, short term goal on the way to the long term goal or whether we improvised and shifted our priorities to a new goal. The key is awareness our activities and also why we are engaging in this activity. And this will prevent us from suddenly “finding” ourselves someplace new and unexpected.
With Labor Day Weekend fast approaching, and with it the unofficial end of Summer 2013, I pose the following challenge with an eye towards setting the stage for a truly productive year: Consider ways to maintain your focus even though a busy day. Develop your awareness of where your focus really is and when it strays from your stated goal. Yes, this is easier said than done; however, by continually measuring how any new thought or action is another step towards achieving your goal, it can be done.
Consider the possibilities.
Adam J. Krim