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Shifting Gears

Gear Shift

The very first car my wife and I bought together, right before we married, was a 1974 Mustang II. It did not have an automatic transmission but, rather, was a five-speed manual. She had never driven a stick shift before, so the training began. Nothing like learning to drive a five-speed to see how well you will really be able to get along. She was doing quite well until one day we had an errand to drive where the area was quite hilly.

Unfortunately, the traffic light caught us where the hill was the steepest, and now the real test was about to begin. When the light turned green she tried, but we rolled backwards. Again, she tried but the result was the same. The man behind us was quite concerned waving his hands and honking his horn. I pulled up the emergency hand break in the middle console, told her to gun it, pop the clutch, and I let the brake down.   You can get rubber even in a 4-cylinder!

She became very proficient with a manual transmission, which proved to be quite useful while we were living in Romania.   Learning to know when to be in the right gear at the right time allows the engine to function at its optimum. In the wrong gear at the wrong time and the engine labors and can even shut down. Being in the right gear at the right time is also important in our lives for us personally, our families, and wherever we may work. If you are in the wrong gear at the wrong time damage can be done.

The following gears are used in the book Five Gears: How to Be Present When there Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram. The key is being aware of the gear you are in, the gear others are in around you, and then being willing to shift into the needed gear for the moment. We will run over people if we choose to continue at the speed we are traveling and are unwilling to down shift, slow down, and be fully present and focused on them where they are at the moment.

  • First Gear is the Recharge Mode. This is where you completely unplug and are able to get refreshed, recharged, and reenergized. This is your time alone with God and making sure you get the rest and relaxation that you need. This is why there is a day and a night, a Sabbath, a time to work and a time to rest. God placed these rest rhythms into our lives for our health and well-being. Do not skip over first gear and try to start off too fast in another gear because eventually you will damage your engine.
  • Second Gear is the Connect Mode. We must learn to be fully present with our families. The people we love the most deserve our best in the area of our undivided attention during quality time together. We cannot afford to always be distracted and guilty of being physically present but not emotionally. Are you connecting appropriately with your wife and with your children? The reality is that miscommunication grows exponentially the busier our lives become.
  • Third Gear is the Social Mode. This middle gear gives us the ability to shift down or up pretty easily. We can downshift into second gear where we can spend quality time with someone that allows up to get to know them more personally. Look for these opportunities and capitalize on them but also be ready to upshift to being able to multi-task. The key to third gear is being aware of what is needed at the moment and having “EQ” which is emotional intelligence.
  • Fourth Gear is Task Mode. This is where we are multi-tasking and working hard in several different areas. It is interesting that 85% or people are usually in this gear but you cannot stay there forever. It is not good if the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night is to check your email. There is a time that all of us need to learn to shut it off and to shutdown. This gear can be exhilarating and bring a lot of personal satisfaction as we check things off of our to-do list.
  • Fifth Gear is the Focus Mode. Now you are 100% focused on the task and you are uninterrupted as you complete it. This has been described as being “in the zone.” I have asked several what that looks like in their particular field. A policeman shared with me that it is when he is able to help someone. An owner of a factory shared with me that it is that 2-3 minutes every day when everything and everyone is working in perfect harmony. An NFL quarterback said it is when he can see the whole field and knows what everyone is going to do and how the defense will react, the opposite of tunnel vision.

When are you in “the zone?” Where is your sweet spot when you are at your best and can be the most productive you can be? It may be in 90-minute segments, early mornings, or right after lunch. Maybe you need to get around people to be “in the zone” or you need to be locked in a room by yourself with a white marker board as you dream and visualize. Once again, though, you cannot stay in fifth gear forever. There will be time to downshift into multi-tasking and then even downshift again to be social again.

To properly drive a five-speed transmission you must be aware of how the engine sounds, the terrain, the correct speed needed, and sensitive to what is needed at the moment. The same is true in our lives as we become more self-aware of the gear needed for us to be productive and personable. You cannot always be the social butterfly because there is work to be done nor should you continually be all about the work while ignoring relationships.

Healthy Christians know when to shift gears!