Red Light, Green Light — dealing with problems as they occur

A couple days ago I was driving on a highway and I saw a traffic light up ahead with red lights. My first impulse was to slow down, then I realized it was still pretty far away, so I kept going at my normal speed. Sure enough, way before I got to the light, it had turned green.

It’s taken me years to combat my initial impulse to slow down when I see a red light, even when it’s far away. I used to slow down all the time; often the light would cycle through green and then back to red by the time I got to the light, so I finally learned not to reduce my speed too soon.

I’ve noticed a parallel with projects. I’ll be working on something and I’ll see that in a month or ten steps ahead I’m going to run into a block of some kind. My initial impulse when I was younger was to stop what I was doing in the present until I resolved how I was going to solve the problem in the future. This led me to give up on a lot of projects before I had even really started them, and for many of my undertakings to stall or move slowly.

I did stick to enough projects that I started to see how obstacles I had foreseen in the future often resolved themselves by the time the future became the present. Sometimes the problem stopped being a problem (the equivalent of a red light turning green). Sometimes there was still an issue to resolve; usually I had a greater grasp of a wide range of possible solutions by the time it came up, so even though the difficulty may not have changed objectively, it seemed smaller and much more manageable from my new perspective.

I finally learned both in driving and in life that just because there’s a red light somewhere far up ahead, that’s no reason to slow down now, or take a different road. Allowing my perception of future problems to derail me from working on projects in the present discounts how things change with time and perspective. Future Kris will know a lot that I don’t know now, and future world may look different than present world. So I’m training myself to keep driving, even if it is towards a red light, and to deal with the red light if and when I get to it.

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