Speed Bumps

Modern life seemingly forces us to always have speed in everything. It’s a common question that everyone faces:

How do I get there on time?

The follow-up question:

How do I get there even faster?

I sensed that question more intensely since I lived in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. I guess people from other cities faces the same question as well.

As we try to find the answer to that question, problems kept on piling up and we need to find faster ways to solve those problems. The analogy to describe our life is like driving a car.

To get to our goal faster, we develop ourselves to become a skillful driver and increase our knowledge in navigation. We drive faster. We race our car in toll roads, finding shortcuts, passing each other on the street, all for the sake that we’re there on time. Or even faster than anyone else.

There is an analogy in Richard Carlson’s book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work, problems in life are like speed bumps.

Depending on how you approach and deal with the bump, it can be a miserable, uncomfortable, even damaging experience, or it can be simply be a temporary slowdown– no big deal.

In the analogy of speed bumps, how should we approach problems? Do you slow down? Some people thinks that they don’t have the time and doesn’t hit the brake, therefore making the ride somewhat of a roller coaster.

The writer points out that our attitude towards problems is the key to managing problems. Are you going to be reactive by hitting the gas to get through faster, or are you going to slow down and calmly find wise solutions?

Those speed bumps are there as a signal that we should slow down and avoid a catastrophic accident. We move more cautiously and gracefully on facing the difficulties in life. Some people even gained more perspective as they slow down, because they can observe more stuff around them and no longer hyper focused on the sole goal.

I’ve been thinking about bringing this analogy to the next level. The previous analogy only works if we know where we’re headed. What happens if we’re driving in the dark and there’s speed bumps along the way? It’s going to be unexpected. If we drive around in the dark with full speed all the time, our car will be flying out of control.

Isn’t life is basically just like driving around in the dark all the time? We don’t always know where we’re going. We explore and decide things along the way. Speed bumps will always be unexpected.

How would you deal with this situation?

I would see speed bumps as opportunities to learn. It’s an infinite opportunity to grow as long as we don’t give up on our learning capabilities.

There is a concept called Growth Mindset, popularized by the psychologist Carol Dweck. I think it’s a good fit for answering these kind of questions. It’s recently mentioned by the current Indonesian Minister of Education, Nadiem Makarim, in this video:

There’s a lot of stuff to be learned in this world. Whenever we faced speed bumps, we might slow down but it’s not a stop sign. Pass through the speed bump, then once again move forward with wiser perspectives.

Image source: https://www.roadwayservices.com.au/speed-humps-speed-bumps-traffic-calming/

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