There’s a small piece missing on the front of my dishwasher rack. It fell off shortly after we moved in and every effort I tried to get it to stay on, failed. If I am not careful when loading the dishwasher, the whole top rack will come off the track. This derailing isn’t as annoying when empty, but when full, trying to get it back in place is an exercise in frustration. The rack has to be adjusted just so or it won’t realign. It takes a great deal of patience and some serious balance to get it sorted out or the whole shelf of dishes can end up on the ground.
Every single time I have this happen I think two things; 1. Why don’t I just get this darn thing fixed? 2. This is very “meta” because when our lives get derailed, it can feel very hard to get them back on track. (What can I say? This is just how my brain works.)
In response to the first thing, I simply don’t know why I don’t get it fixed. It certainly annoys me enough and it seems silly that I wouldn’t just solve the problem. In response to the second, the fact that I don’t just get it fixed makes it even MORE thought provoking because it is a great example of how human beings derail their lives through curious and often small choices.
We do this in a number of different ways:
- Lack of clarity on what we really want in our lives. Many of us move toward goals we think we are “supposed to have” instead of getting exceedingly clear about what we want and why we want it. Left unchecked, we can go a very long way before realizing we have been running someone else’s race, not our own.
- Lack of true passion. When we aren’t truly excited about what we are doing, it can make less fruitful seasons quite long and seem like there is no purpose. Make no mistake, even with true passion, there will be frustration and times of wondering why you ever undertook this endeavor, but a great love for something or someone makes it all worthwhile.
- Negative emotions – I have a sweet friend in Canada who works in Diversity and Inclusion, focusing on indigenous tribes. I asked her one day about whether or not she ever finds herself burnt out by what must often seem like an uphill battle. She said that she learned long ago that if she finds herself burning too hot (in anger or other negative emotions) about what she is doing, that she won’t have the fuel needed for the long term. She can’t get jacked up about every little thing but needs to save her energy for the real work.
- Comparison – we tend to only see others’ highlight reels, while being painfully aware of our own bloopers and outtakes. Comparison robs us of joy because it makes us think what we have isn’t good enough. Trying to keep up with a perception that isn’t even true can quickly lead to frustration and bitterness.
While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of derailers, it includes some of the most common ones. Like the problem with the dishwasher, many of us tend to let these things go on, aware there is a problem but not quite motivated enough to fix it.
Now this is the point in the blog where I usually propose some suggestions or offer counsel about what can be done to remedy the situation. In all honesty, this issue is quite complex. If I could crack it easily, I would probably be pretty wealthy, living near the beach in Jamaica, not writing about an issue where I pose more questions than answers.
That day hasn’t come yet, but in the meantime, here’s what I do know. We need to decide it’s worth it to make change and we need to have the tools to make that change. How do we do that? The same way we do anything!
Make it a priority. Get some help. Find people who believe in you and want you to be successful. Have them help you get out of your own way and then return the favor. Set up a system of accountability and follow through. Celebrate when you move even the tiniest bit toward progress and keep doing what you need to do until you are back on track. Then, remain vigilant for those little things that end up getting bigger if left unchecked.
In life, we are all going to encounter derailers, but we don’t have to let them keep us off track permanently.
As for my dishwasher? I don’t know what I will decide to do next. While I find it annoying, it reminds me of greater truth and causes me to ask profound questions.
Who knew such a small piece could have such a big impact?