Recently, I was strolling on a beautiful beach in Barbados when two women jogged past me. Just as they overtook me, an unsuspecting wave crashed against the shore and covered their shoes. Immediately, one of the runners stopped to brood over the water in her tennis shoes and seemed to lose her appetite for running. She stopped and fretted about the water ruining her new shoes.
Meanwhile, the other runner never broke stride, kept her pace, and barely glanced back at her running partner, while she pushed the needle. As I watched this simple scene, two runners heading in the same direction, moving at the same pace, encountered the same challenge, chose to handle the situation differently. One decided to run on, and the other chose to quit.
I can’t recall the number of times I stopped running because of a small wave, and on the other hand, the number of times I ran on despite the size of the water. But there were a couple of other lessons I took away from that scene. First, when faced with adversity, it is easy to stop and whine about the situation or run on. But there was also another troubling question. Why did the other runner continued going and did not stop to help her friend? Was it selfishness or self-preservation?
I continued my stroll on the beach, but I also pondered how I might have handled the same situation. Would I have run on or turned around and offered some emotional support? What happens when a member of my team needs some attention, but I get so focused on accomplishing the objectives that I fail to recognize my team member who might need just a bit of attention to join the jog again?
How would you handle a similar situation?
Stan Brooks, PhD