Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Road Trip Zen

The day after my latest road trip, I was working in my yard when my son came home from school. We said hello and then I said, "What did you learn today to get you closer to your dream job?" He looked at me like I was insane, which is typical since he is a teen and I am his father.

It got me thinking about what steps I took today and recently. Whether you know me or not, a little insight is that I have struggled with the dream job/what to do with my life/who am I issues for at least 25 years. I am not making the leap (yet) into being a life coach but realized a great analogy from my recent road trip.

As usual, my trip goals were to have fun and explore, to stay off interstates and not go to any chains (to eat or stay). My first paid lodging stay was at Motel 6 in Bradenton, FL (and I drove I-75 from Naples to get there) but otherwise I managed to avoid interstates and chains between Miami and DC.

The last morning of my trip, I sat in the parking lot of Compare Foods (an awesome Latin grocery store) in Rock Hill SC after buying a couple of pastries from the independent bakery inside. I stared at my iPhone GPS app and maps for literally 15 minutes (and, Yes!, I know what literally means). You see, I could not make up my mind which road to take. It was a frustrating series of what-ifs; what if this road accidentally merges onto the interstate, what if this road is not fun, what if this road takes too long, and so on.

Unlike my dream job search, I had an end goal for my road trip--to be in Northern Virginia by my kid's bedtime. If I sat there staring at the map for another two hours then I would have to take the interstate and ruin my fun trip. I was suffering a massive case of TCS (trip completion syndrome). It was the last day of a fun road trip. I wanted it to last longer. I wanted everything to be perfect on that last day. I did not want to miss anything.

Surely you know what happened (and stop calling me Shirley). I picked a route and started driving. For a few miles I had buyer's remorse. I kept thinking that maybe the other way would be better after all. I played with the radio and scanned for some new stations. Then I popped in a CD. Really, this road stinks, so maybe I should turn around and try another route. All of a sudden a possible interesting shortcut road appeared, not shown on my map. I checked the GPS and it does look like a connecting road to my next target road.

Predictably, I eventually forgot about the other route and started enjoying the journey. I saw some great new sites that I had no idea was near: a US President's hometown, gorgeous small roads through southern NC, oncoming drivers doing the finger wave (a sure sign of a great road to me), and at least one BBQ joint to go back to. I even ended up in a town with a "must try before I die" BBQ restaurant that I could never seem to find a reason to visit. As an aside, I thought that Lexington BBQ was OK but their peach cobbler is superb.

The rest of the day was fantastic. My TCS anxiety was left near the SC/NC border. Later, I stopped for a break and walked on a great green trail in Reidsville, NC. I ran into groups of high school baseball players walking the opposite way. Was this a sign? A couple of days earlier, I ran into a former teammate in Miami who encouraged me to pursue baseball coaching (one of my what-if dream job possibilities). Well, that remains to be seen but I did "discover" to get unstuck, at least for one trip:

Lesson 1: when stuck, do something. Do anything. Get moving. I had to leave that parking lot, pick a road, and start driving. Otherwise, I would have remained in that parking lot forever. I have read and heard this suggestion but still remain paralyzed in my life's passion pursuit.

Lesson 2: be open to possibilities. During my trip, new opportunities (expected and unexpected) presented themselves. Ironic that such valuable lessons were learned, not in a seminar or book or coaching session, but alone in an unrelated leisure activity. You never know where inspiration will come from.

Lesson 3: you gotta swing before you can hit a home run. Well, it is a sport's analogy but appropriate for getting unstuck. First, you have to simply be in the game (or even know what game to be in), then you have to step up to the plate. Getting unstuck is not always fixed with one swing; often it is an incremental, step-by-step process...

... and here are some steps:

Step 1: Start Where You Are

- figure out your current location
* for any problem, define the issue
* while travelling, use a map

Step 2: Determine Where You Want To Go

- if no idea where to go:
* for any problem, choose an action and see what happens
* while travelling, pick a route and get moving or stay put
"If you do not where you are going any road will take you there."
"When you see a fork in the road, take it."

Step 3: Move Between Location (Step #1) and Destination (Step #2)

- track your progress on a map or journal
"Life is a journey, not a destination."

Step 4: Reassess Your Route

- periodically figure out where you are (Step #1) and where you are going (Step #2). Change the route, as needed.
"We are lost but making good time."

Step 5: Avoid Traffic Problems

- unless your goal is to blaze a new trail, there is an established path to your destination. Learn from others.
- look out for traffic jams. Learn from mistakes. "It's deja vu all over again."

Congratulations on the completion of your journey, whether it was actual travel or some life issue. Please share your "trip report" comments with others.