Traveling the Unexpected Road

Unmarked_Detour_1“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.” —Elwood

What happens next? Jake and Elwood—the Blues Brothers—are forced off their Chicago-bound highway by a huge barricade across the road and the word “DETOUR.”

Generally, we see detours as disruptions in our status quo—changes we didn’t bargain for or plan around. But even when a detour is unavoidable, we have a choice about how we handle it.

Detour as opportunity
When I hit a detour, my first reaction is usually to get upset. Through no fault or plan of my own, I’m now going to take a route I don’t know over a period of time I can’t predict. Even if arrive where I’m headed, it won’t be at the time I had in mind when I started.

Back in 1974, I was happily working as a national sales manager for a company in northern Indiana. One of my clients in St. Louis called me one day and told me they wanted to hire me, and made me an offer on the spot. I told them no thank you. They asked what it would take. I thought about what they would reject (which would result in my staying in my comfort zone in Indiana) and told them double their offer. They accepted. Detour!

My point is that while all detours lead me off my plan, not all detours are detrimental. Some are even beneficial. I would argue that when I resist the Knower/Judger urge to judge detours, they are neither detrimental nor beneficial, they just are. And I’m left to make of them what I can.

I’ve also noticed that sometimes I refuse to accept detours and (metaphorically) charge right through the sign. That’s usually when I hang on to the job, volunteer position, relationship, family heirloom, collection of rally trophies, etc. longer than is actually in my best interest. The detour sign is right in front of me, but my stubborn K/J (always ready to keep me in my comfort zone) refuses to turn the wheel and take the detour. I can report that the road almost always gets rocky when I ignore the detour sign and press on blindly.

Detour as transition
I’ve noticed that there are detour signs that I actually have some choice about. The move to St. Louis is one I probably could have ignored. I could have stayed in northern Indiana and ended up on some other path. That doubled offer was certainly beneficial, although the angst of moving and learning a new town and culture seemed daunting at the time.

But other detours cannot be ignored. Automobile breakdowns force us to learn about our cars and what makes them run (and quit!). And they have to be dealt with…usually right now. Injuries and deaths are detours many of us have had to navigate. They can and do change our lives forever. The death of a loved one or even a pet leaves a hole in our heart that can be filled with anger and frustration or love and fond memories.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was responsible for a lot of work on the subject of transitions; she helped explain what happens to those of us left behind when someone close dies. The process is structurally similar with all detours: something we’ve grown accustomed to is no longer in play.

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We go through stages—sometimes almost instantaneously, and sometimes, it seems, endlessly.

When a detour stands in my path, I have a choice about how quickly I process the first four stages. I can languish in denial, frustration, and depression, or I can exercise one of my favorite three responses, prescribed by Eckhart Tolle—accept, enjoy passively, or engage enthusiastically. Depending which one I pick, I’ll end up at a different place down the path of recovery from the detour:

• Accepting can help get me beyond frustration…possibly even past depression.
• Enjoying passively can get me to experimenting and exploring the data (unfiltered by my K/J).
• Engaging enthusiastically brings my Learner/Researcher into play and fully supports making a decision.

…and I’m on my way.

I don’t move away from my detours until I have started experimenting (exploring unfiltered data) and decided that a path change is in my best interest. This happens best when I can set my K/J aside, eliminating stress and frustration, and engage my L/R to see all the possibilities.

Good luck out there on your road of life…whatever detours may be ahead!

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