Ignoring that little orange light

Ignoring that little orange light

Most of us resist change, not by any conscious decision, but by telling ourselves we don’t need to act now, that we can delay tough actions and continue with life as usual. It’s like looking at your gas gauge, seeing it approach empty and deciding you’ll get gas tomorrow, and tomorrow.

The story of the orange light

It reminds me of a true story when I was visiting my Dad and step-mom late one evening, and my sister also dropped by. After chatting for a bit, my sister turned to me and asked, “Do you mind following me to the gas station?”

“Why?” I asked.

“Oh. The little orange light on my dashboard came on, and I’m afraid I’ll run out of gas before I get there.” She replied.

“ You should be OK,” I said, knowing how close a gas station was. “You can drive another 30km or so with no problem even when that orange light comes on.” Noticing my reassurance hadn’t changed the concerned look on her face, I then asked, “How long has the light been on?”

She replied with a sheepish look,

“Oh. About three days.”

The orange light applies to every area of your life

That’s the thing about many situations in life.

They don’t seem to gradually worsen, but seem to work like normal up until they “suddenly” stop or break down completely. Your car will run perfectly well up until the last bit of gas, and then abruptly won’t go anymore. It works the same for many areas in our lives, our bodies, our relationships, … our jobs. We get warning signs, the equivalent of that little orange light that we ignore, but things seem to function at least well enough that we don’t “stop for gas.”

The doctor may have said to you many times over the years, “You’re overweight, and your bad cholesterol is very high,” and you ignore her until one day you’re rushed to the hospital with diabetes, heart attack or stroke.

You see all the signs your relationship is going south, distance, avoidance, arguments, coldness etc., but you put off the tough discussion until it’s too late.

Your day job will go as normal every day until you get fired, and you realized you’ve ignored your poor performance appraisals, your colleagues’ unwillingness to work with you, customer complaints, requests for training etc.

We ignore that little orange light until it’s too late

Countries do it as well. Energy-rich countries like Saudi Arabia and Trinidad & Tobago have known for decades about their over-reliance on energy, but they’ve never diversified, because like a car running close to empty, everything works like normal until the country metaphorically, or maybe literally runs out of oil and gas, or more likely they become irrelevant in a world turning to renewable energy.

Americans have ignored the signs that corporations and special interest groups have hijacked their political system with money, lobbyists, and most recently blatant lies—sorry “alternative facts”— and we’re seeing America run out of moral and ethical gas now.

But avoiding tough action is normal for most of us, and you don’t have to agree with every example above to know that we all put off taking tough timely action in favour of short-term comforts.

The question for you

The question for you then is this:

Where in your life have you been doing what my sister had with her car? Where in your life is that little orange light on, and you’ve just been putting off the action you know you need to take? Maybe you see that orange light every day at work, or when you go home and you pray today will not be the day that it—your job, or your marriage—just stops working.

Maybe you’ve ignored the orange light for so long you don’t see it anymore, so long that it doesn’t even occur to you that you could run out of gas at any moment. Maybe you won’t. But then what kind of life are you tolerating? Life would run so much better if you simply tend to that orange light.

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.