Do you remember the Road Runner cartoon? Wile E. Coyote would be chasing Road Runner who would “beep, beep!” and manage to slip away. Always two steps ahead of the coyote, Road Runner just outmaneuvered him in every episode.
I remember when the coyote would run right off a cliff in pursuit. And he would dramatically just keep running on air, not realizing that he wasn’t on solid ground. Though it was predictable, you would see the sudden realization, the pause, the expression and then the inevitable fall.
As a kid, I identified with the road runner. We were outsmarting our opponent. We just laughed at that coyote. How could he be so stupid? Every single week, he repeated the same mistakes. How could you be running so fast that you don’t realize you just ran off a cliff?
I watched one of those old cartoons today, and I looked at it from a completely different perspective. Instead of identifying with the road runner, I saw the coyote with new empathy.
How many of us are in such hot pursuit of our goals that we just run right off our own cliff? How many of us work so hard in our jobs year after year until we find we have completely run out of steam? Do you find yourself out of balance?
Particularly vulnerable: anyone labeled “Type A,” “driven,” or “goal-oriented.”
And I’m not pointing a finger without realizing that I’ve been guilty of it, too:
- missed vacations year after year
- taking phone calls at all hours
- checking my communication device repeatedly
- not having appropriate boundaries
“Just one more,” we say, “After this email, I will tune everything out.” How about this one, “This is just a really tough time at work right now, but it will slow down soon and then we will…”
Does that time really ever come?
Here’s a few leadership lessons from my newfound appreciation for Coyote:
1. Decide. What are you pursuing? Is it worth it? Are there alternatives to reaching your goal?
2. Pause. We need to stop running while we are on solid ground. That means taking time to evaluate our progress on the way to a goal. We’re halfway through the year. Where are you with your 2012 goals? Is it time to pause and see whether or not you are on track?
3. Recharge. Chasing Road Runner is a marathon, not a sprint. Pursuing excellence at work or at home requires a long-term, sustained effort. The preparation required is different than for a smaller goal.
I’ve never watched the cartoon and hoped Coyote would capture the Road Runner, and that hasn’t changed with my new perspective. But, what I do recognize is my own behavior. I can identify with Coyote’s focused determination. And I know that in pursuit of my own goals, I have at times found myself blindly running off that cliff. Halfway through the year is a perfect time for all of us to reassess our goals. Decide. Pause. Recharge. And then, if the goal is still admirable, go back at it and make the second half of the year the most effective ever.