Don't Miss Opportunities: Remember How to Jump Between Trains
y Mary Lloyd

Of all the things we dream of when we
are up to our necks in the frenzied pace
of a career, the one that's most consistently
a high priority is the chance to slow down.
To stop running around like a chicken on speed trying to get fifty things done at once.

Having the time to savor the moment -- be it drinking your morning coffee or seeing
Alaska for the first time
-- can seem like nirvana if the pace of your life is typical.  The
bliss of having total control of your time is the consolation prize if you've been laid off
and the brass ring if you've retired.

But it's a bad idea to insist on it all the time.

When we have the option of focusing on only one thing at a time, we risk losing a skill
that's hard to get back
-- the ability to jump between moving trains.  

In career mode, this skill is indispensable.  You move from writing a white paper to
putting out a customer service fire in a nanosecond.  You go from teaching to
discipline mode instantly.

It's an even more important skill in terms of career moves.   I went from college
instructor to internal corporate development consultant in one unexpected jump.   And
from a staff position to  line management in another.

I was moving in one direction at good speed before I made the jump and moving in a
new one, just as fast, once I landed
-- without ever stopping to figure out where to
place my feet, how to angle the leap, etc.  I just said, "Okay.  I can do that."  And off the
new train went with me on it.

Once we get out of that mode
, and particularly when we retire, we're more laid back
about it.    We "think about it."  We "wait and see"
-- sometimes until next week, next
month, or next year.

Taking the time to study it, even savor it, usually means it moves on before we're
ready to move at all.  And that means a lot of missed opportunities.   That's
particularly bad news if those opportunities don't come along as often as they used to.

Just knowing you need to move fast isn't enough though.  You need to practice
doing it.   Otherwise, you won't be ready when you need to be.

Five days ago, I learned an important opportunity
-- to which I'd made a preliminary
commitment months ago
-- was happening in three days.  To take advantage of it, I
needed to move fast and do things I've been telling myself I don't have to do any more

-- FAX a signed document, set things up online to take a required class (which strikes
terror into the hearts of most people over 50), and then get on with participating.  

Did I leap exuberantly toward that train?  Nope.  I hesitated
-- worrying about not
having the textbook, whether I could handle the online learning environment, and the
fact that the timing was bad.  That was smoke
- -I almost kissed off a key opportunity
because I didn't want to relinquish control of my pace.

That's when having all the time you want to do whatever you want can become a
negative.  It's easy to forget
-- when you direct your own time all day every day -- that
opportunities usually require surrendering to someone or something else's timing.   

If, instead of jumping at the chance, you stand on the platform of the station
ruminating, the engine pulling excitement and challenge will chug off without you.

Let's not do that.

But let's not jump onto every train that comes along either.

Dive at the obvious ones--the opportunities that relate directly to what you want in
your life.  The chance to have lunch with a key contact.  A volunteer slot for a cause
you want to champion.  Time with someone you'd really like to have a relationship
with.  The perfect job opportunity.  

But don't take too much time thinking on the ones that just "feel right" either.  That's
your intuition telling you spring into action. You need to remember what that voice
sounds like.

But the rest?  Maybe you want to go for a few just to keep your train-jumping skills

A key piece of keeping excitement and newness in your life is being able to jump at
-- often without time to assess them thoroughly beforehand.  Doing that
requires you to let go of control of the pace of your life.   At least once in a while.  Yes,
stop and smell the roses.  Appreciate the connection with your canine buddy when
you pet the dog.

But when the phone rings and someone offers you the opportunity you've been
dreaming of, tell Fido you'll see him later and get going!

About the author:
Mary Lloyd is the author of Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking
Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. She consults to businesses on how to attract
and use retired talent well and offers seminars on how to create a meaningful retirement for
individuals.  She is also available as a speaker.  For more on how to be an effective experienced
worker, go to
Mining Silver.

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