Have you ever been on a major highway or freeway during the peak of morning traffic?
If so, you know it’s a place where speed limits are just cruel reminders of what’s possible, where a wave of the hand from a fellow driver can make your day, and a finger can ruin it.
Even if you’re now enjoying a work-from-anywhere lifestyle, you may remember one of the saving graces of the crowded commute is the carpool lane. Having spent hundreds of hours during the past 10 years in the thick of the morning commute on the I-5 North freeway here in the Seattle area, I have observed some oddly relatable things between the carpool lane and work life.
1) It takes seizing opportunities to get where you want to be. The traffic will not magically open a chute so you can glide over from the on-ramp to the leftmost lane. You have to go, carefully, signaling your intent, and one lane at a time.
At work, it’s easy to go heads down, hoping someone notices your hard work and invites you into your next position. Instead, we need to look for those opportunities like:
- A leader that needs help on a project
- A recent vacancy that might be a good fit for you
- A new initiative that is taking shape and will need a great team
Then, you’ve got to make your move!
2) You have to be willing to go slow, before you can go fast. To move across multiple lanes of traffic, you have to let a few people get ahead of you before making your move to the lane where you fly by everyone with your carpool buddy in tow.
Creating a better work week for yourself may not instantly propel you where you want to go with your career, it can even feel slow at first as you dial in your schedule, your e-mail habits, and work flow. Yet practicing excellence at work, focusing on the essential activities, while maintaining healthy boundaries, will allow you to perform at a sustainable pace long after colleagues have burned out.
3) You don’t know everyone’s situation. It’s easy to give a quick glance at a fellow driver zooming down the carpool lane with what looks like an empty passenger seat. It can cause your blood to boil with an insatiable need report this person only to catch a glimpse of their kids in the backseat a few moments later.
It’s tempting at work to look around and see others getting ahead without seeing the effort, the reason for the role change, or the struggles they may be dealing with outside of work. Feelings of envy have never improved my life, but appreciation and gratitude often do. My time and energy and precious resources, and I’d rather spend it celebrating the wins of others while working on achieving wins of my own.
Next steps – Let’s take these lessons for a spin this week
- Look for an opportunity you’d like to pursue, and set up time to talk to your leader about it.
- Acknowledge where you feel like you’re going slower than you want, and ask yourself if it’s preparing you for where you want to go, or if you’re just stuck?
- Practice giving a “good for them” affirmation instead of brewing in the negativity of “why did they get that?” at least once this week.
Don’t believe the lie that career growth has to be put on hold because you want to live a full life. Many of us are investing the time to work better, so we can experience living better. Just like the carpool lane, some things are better when our friends and family are along for the ride.