How Flat Tires Improved My Day

I was having one of those mornings, which I’m sure you could relate to. Even though I woke up on time, every step on the way to get ready that morning included someone getting in my way.  I’m convinced that the closer the school bus gets, the longer everyone takes to get ready.    

I was running out the door, coffee in one hand, lunchbox in the other, and my laptop bag slung on my shoulder.  I’m not late, at least not yet, and despite my rush I felt the freezing cold air smack my face as I walked out the door. We’ve had a few warm days lately, so the chill of the air was uncomfortably noticeable as I threw my things into the backseat.  Not my coffee though, I desperately needed that for my drive to the office.

I hadn’t even made it to the corner before my car started chiming a warning tone. My dashboard lit up with the message “Low Tire Pressure” and showed indicators that all four tires were low.  Did I mention that I had a 9 AM status meeting that morning with my general manager, and I don’t like to be late?  Blame the project manager in me that takes pride making sure I’m on time.

I pulled over right away. Being the prepared project manager that I am, I opened my trunk, pulled out my portable tire inflator, and started filling my tires one by one.  If you’ve ever owned one of these devices, you know how useful they can be.  As long as you don’t have a puncture, they’ll ultimately inflate your tire and you’ll be on your way.  Two things to realize about that last sentence: first, it works as long as they’re not a hole that’s leaking air faster than you’re filling it; and second, that “ultimately” can be (or feel) like a really long time, especially if you’re in a rush. That goes double when you’re on your way to your weekly status meeting with the GM. 

Time to triage! My car has run-flat tires and it was unlikely that I punctured all 4 tires at once, so I was pretty certain I could rule that possibility out.  What was more likely was that the sudden chill of the weather reduced my tire pressure, so all my tires needed a little more air to compensate for the temperature change.  I started to fill one tire after another and watched as the minutes ticked by slowly, when suddenly I had some visitors.

As I knelt down to fill my passenger side rear tire, I found myself eye to eye with some furry company.  A cute little dog was very happy to see that I was at his nose level, and he came closer to say hello. He was very well behaved, as was his owner who I started to chat with.  As I petted my temporary cuddlesome companion, his companion at the other end of the leash started speaking with me.

“Where did you get that? That’s really useful!”, he said.  He looked very thoughtful, and I could only guess that he was remembering times in the past that he was stranded on the side of the road, wishing he had a compressor like I had here by the curb.

“It was about twenty bucks and I got it on Amazon.  It’s been useful more than once”, I replied.  At that moment, I saw the lightbulb go off in his head. He just realized that there’s a very simple and portable solution to avoid being stranded on the side of the road.  “That’s a really great thing to have with you.  I’m going to order one as soon as I get home.”  And with that he was off, walking fast enough that his puppy was now having a hard time keeping up.

It was at that moment that I felt the shift in my own perspective, and I thank my mental fitness training for that.   While I had been filling one tire after another, I was initially visualizing, no, catastrophizing, about how I would be late for my meeting that morning. Sure, I left a little early to compensate for a little traffic, but this issue was unexpected.  After all, who leaves for work every day expecting to have to fill their tires along the way?

The perspective shift took about 30 seconds to dawn on me, and when it did, it put a smile on my face.  The shift was that even though I was mildly inconvenienced for just a few minutes (though I still made it on time), I found a gift in the situation that resonated with one of my core values, which is the desire to help others.  The gift in the situation was that I just empowered someone with a simple way to avoid a very uncomfortable situation in the future. In fact, he probably told everyone he met that day about the guy he saw inflating his tires on the side of the road, so I’m sure I’ve helped more than one person.    

What’s interesting was the effect this perspective shift had for me for the rest of my own day. Not only did I feel good about helping someone first thing in the morning, but that event set the tone for the rest of my day. Throughout the day, I realized that I was continuously shifting my perspective to be more balanced and discerning, instead of being negative or judgmental.  I was reminded to look for the gift more often that day, and was able to find it in multiple situations which made my day more enjoyable and rewarding. 

To be honest, this perspective shift was not the result of an epiphany initiated by reading positivity posts on social media or finding inspiration randomly and fleetingly.  For me, this was the result of the mental fitness training program I had taken.  The best news? Within 6 weeks and spending a few minutes a day on my mental fitness, I saw the change in my perspective as well as my ability to overcome unforeseen issues quicker on any given day.  Days like these remind me how valuable this skill is, especially when facing challenges such as delays to your project or your risk register starting to look like a Christmas tree. 

How would learning these mental fitness skills benefit you, and perhaps also your team? If you’d like to learn more about mental fitness, you can learn more about it at our next webinar. Click the link for details and dates: . In just six weeks, you can develop your own mental muscles to make your projects more successful and more enjoyable with less effort.