You are not stuck in traffic. You are traffic.
There was an advertising campaign a couple of years back which used this line. It makes the point, of course, that when I am stuck in a traffic jam and looking at all the car drivers around me, they are doing the same to me. We have all helped to create the problem.
But there is a wider point about human behaviour.
We can create our own chaos.
It's something I come across every week in a coaching context.
I do it myself. When I send out more email, I get more email. My inbox fills up. So I send more replies. The solution? - send less email Martin!
But then there's the manager who's failure to delegate has resulted in life being miserable. Why don't they delegate? Usually it's because "they won't do it as well as I can". We've all heard it. Many of us have said it. It's probably true. But "they" never will, will they, if they aren't given chance to have a go, make some mistakes, and learn from them?
Then there's the managers who always seem to be surrounded by personnel problems. Going back to the traffic analogy, it reminds me of the joke about the person who drives too slowly in the middle lane of the motorway. They've never been in an accident, but they've seen a lot! If I'm continually surrounded by personnel problems, maybe it's time to look at the common factor here - me! What is it about the way I recruit, organise the work, and manage people that keeps creating problems?
Or there's the other really common one. The person who can never say "No" to a request to do something, and ends up feeling stressed and resentful because they aren't able to look after themselves. The solution? - learn to say "No". Nicely but firmly - but learn to say it. (Note to self - this is the one where I need to be especially watchful, and to make wise choices.)
Here's another. The leader who can't stop coming up with new ideas, each more exciting (to them) than the last one, and who's team are going crazy as a result. What's to be done? Filter the ideas, prioritise them, and ensure that the organisation has capacity to deliver on the "chosen few".
We are not stuck in traffic. We are traffic. We create our own chaos out of our own behaviours.
The good news is that we face a choice. We can choose to send less email, to delegate better, to take time to manage people better, to say "No", to prioritise our ideas. But only if we can recognise our role in creating the chaos.
What chaos are you creating right now?