Consider getting out of your lane

In most Western Advanced Industrialized countries, the prevailing advice for securing a comfortable income and satisfying career is pretty straightforward: not only should you specialize in a well-paying high demand profession, but excel in your job.

Although there are multiple paths to achieve this state of affairs, it typically means graduating from a respected school, (including earning certification, degree or licensure), receiving appropriate training, and working for good company.

For many people this formula works well. But for others this approach comes with numerous often unacknowledged or unanticipated downsides. These include massive amounts of student debt, long hours performing mind numbing and sole crushing tasks, in toxic work environments, and the reward as it often turns out is simply the paycheck and little else.

Individuals respond to this situation  in a variety of ways. Some start to numb the discomfort with alcohol, drugs, or retail therapy, while others exercise on a regular basis, go on vacations, contemplate or engage in constant job and career switching, etc.

More recently some people have been advised to periodically get out of their lane.

What does getting out of one’s lane mean? 

Getting out of one’s lane is an expression that refers to situations when someone gives their opinions or pursues activities outside of their usual area of expertise or knowledge.

It also means stepping outside of one’s usual role or comfort zone.

We have all seen, experienced, and perhaps engaged in the first type of activity. From the drunk at the end of the bar, to your obnoxious uncle that your family felt obligated to invite over to  Thanksgiving dinner. There are lots of people we have met or know who fit this description. It might even be us. But that is not the subject that I want to focus on.

I’m more concerned with prosocial activities and situations that people can engage in with a minimum amount of resource expenditure. This might include trying a new type of food or cuisine, style of clothing, short educational course, hobby, place to travel to, etc. In sum, changing one’s lane in this context refers to trying something out of the ordinary, an activity or pursuit that you don’t normally do.

What does temporarily getting out of one’s lane NOT mean? 

To begin with getting out of one’s lane does not mean waking up tomorrow and quitting your job, abandoning your obligations, or being a dilatant. This approach  is also not a simply a palliative to getting unstuck or getting out of depression, although it might have this kind of secondary benefit. But getting out of one’s lane can provide a number of tangible benefits.

Why is getting out of one’s lane important? 

There are several reasons why stepping out of one’s lane is important and advantageous.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • an antidote to boredom.
  • making people who pursue these interests appear to be more interesting to others
  • the possibility of a new job or career path,
  • exposure to new ideas and perspectives, fostering innovation and creativity.
  • facilitating a way to learn new things and possibly grow emotionally.
  • learn more effective problem-solving techniques.
  • expanding your network and opening up opportunities for collaboration.
  • learning to become more adaptable

Why are people reluctant to get out of their lane?

There re numerous reasons why people hesitate to get out of their lane.

Some of the more important ones are:

  •  insufficient resources
  • Western society’s promotion of idea of career hyper specialization,
  • laziness
  • lack of natural curiosity
  • fear of not being taken seriously in ones primary career
  • anxiety about being called or labeled a dilettante
  • fear of the unknown.

 The bigger challenge

For some people getting out of their lanes may be relatively easy, but I suspect that many, if not most individuals, have lots of rational sounding reasons why they should remain doing the same thing day in day out.

Having said all this, I believe that getting out of your lane basically comes down to taking small calculated risks, experimenting, and to be rational about this whole process. This includes writing things down somewhere in a place that you can refer back to. This may be solved by creating a file on your computer that you can easily access, or designating a notebook that you can keep handy on your book shelf or desk, that you can jot notes down in. In the meantime, there are lots of good books, youtube videos, podcasts and workshops that deal in whole or in part with this subject, worthy of exploration.

The time to start is now.

Photo Credit

Photographer: Nikkorz

Title: the rush 36/365

The traffic in the Bay Area usually sucks, despite the number of lanes the typical highway has here.