I used to have a horse who had zero respect for me.
I was 13, suddenly tall and unhappy about it, and always a bit nervous.
Baby was a short and gorgeous Arabian mare who knew how awesome she was. She had no intention of listening to my tentative commands.
I would spend an hour trying to catch Baby in the pasture below our house, determined not to stoop to the cheap tricks of bribing her with molasses oats. She loved to mess with me.
Sometimes, she would trot towards me to give me hope and then peel away at the last second. Other times, she would barrel towards whatever obstacle I had erected and then just dodge in a different direction right before it could trap her.
I hated it at the time, but I have great memories now. Baby taught me a lot – and she did end up respecting me once I’d grown up a bit.
The mental image of that horse, tail in the air, dodging away from an obstacle at the last second, has popped into my head many times. But now, the trigger for that memory isn’t another horse. It’s humans.
Like the time when I asked a team member why she had missed a deadline only to hear her say, “oh yeah…I forgot. I got stuck on that one, so I focused on another project.”
Or the times I hear clients say, “nothing’s happening with this project, but I don’t know why.”
Or the times I find myself moving around Google Drive folders when I have time set aside to make a video for social media.
Thanks to Baby, I call it ‘the great dodge.’
When we start a project, our brains fire up. We start moving forward, making decisions, and making progress.
But then, some kind of obstacle arises. It might be as tangible as a tough decision or as vague as a feeling that something’s not right.
Sometimes, our brains get stuck in a rumination loop. Other times, we dodge. We might not decide to do it or even know we’re doing it. We just switch directions and keep moving. That direction could be another project, checking email, or dropping down the social media rabbit hole.
Setting a project aside intentionally can be great; dodging causes problems. It can keep you stuck for a long time without really knowing why you’re there or how to fix it, and it can build up a layer of shame because you think something’s wrong with your work ethic or personality.
I do two things to work through this:
- I proactively try to check in with my team about projects. Things can get stuck without anyone really consciously thinking, “This is stuck. It’s not going to move forward until we work through this spot. Let me make a plan.” When we catch the spots where dodging is happening, we can fix them and still get things done on time.
- I block all dodge routes for myself when needed. If something feels ambiguous or scary, I might find myself getting super productive about organizing my inbox so I can still feel like I’m working when I’m really avoiding it. I might have to put my phone in another room, close my email tab, and sit there with the discomfort until the ambiguous or scary thing makes some kind of sense.
I’d love to hear from you – what do you tend to dodge? Are there some escape routes you can block for yourself?