Like cars, relationships shift up and down through three gear-like phases. To move ahead together, you need to learn to recognize which gear is needed and how to change your thinking and actions in each one. When you fail to shift, at the right time, your relationship will stall or, worse, come to a painful screeching halt. Sad to say, all too often women rising in today’s competitive workplace experience relationship challenges. Why? We tend to wear more “relationship hats” than our male counterparts but more importantly, married to a man or a woman doesn’t really matter if both partners work in high-octane careers law, financial service or technology firms.
All relationships start in 1st Gear. Let’s take a romantic relationship for example. You begin slowly getting to know each other, spending leisurely hours talking about what you like and don’t like, want and don’t want so you can become good friends or even mates. Then you reach a shifting point-for weeks you’ve been so obsessed with your “startup relationship” that friends and family are leaving messages, “Where have you been?” No, you didn’t move out of town or leave the planet. You’ve been in the preoccupying, all-absorbing, time-consuming 1st Gear of Relationship!
Committed, you shift to 2nd Gear, de-focus on each other and re-focus on the rest of your lives such as projects, deadlines, appraisals, promotions and bonuses. Productive and competitive again, you work long and hard to plan your wedding and pay for it, find a home and furnish it, fund IRAs or 401Ks, buy stock, and build your client base.
Ah, it seems like you’re accomplishing so much together but actually you’re accomplishing more and more apart with taking care of your new home, starting your family, dropping off kids and picking them up, babysitting for each other so you can attend meetings and take clients to dinner. Now you’re doing more and more separately so you have less and less in common. Division of labor is what you call it but loneliness is what it feels like. And what about your plans and dreams, the unique contributions you want to make in your lives? There’s no time or energy for that now. Increasing pressures, longer hours, more disappointments, misunderstandings and arguments until you reach a choice point.
Do you choose to shift to 3rd Gear together and find solutions? “Honey, we love each other dearly. What can we do to re-create our relationship? To make time to talk for hours like ‘the good ole days’, to get to know each other again, to plan and dream our future. Can we find a regular sitter and set up a date night? Or take a class or start a project we can share and enjoy?”
A quick overview:
1st Gear is for starting and keywords include: new, basic rules, safe/dangerous, right/wrong, good/bad, should/shouldn’t, have to/must. You need to downshift to handle change, expected or unexpected… to slow down to hear about your child’s day or study for your CFA exam. Or handle accident, injury or illness… a sick child, spouse, parent or friend.
2nd Gear is for producing and competing and keywords include: more-better-faster, win/lose, longer/harder, deadline, profit, bonus. Today we spend most of our time accelerating in 2nd Gear.
3rd Gear is for creating and innovating, co-dreaming and cooperating and keywords include: Aha! realize, discover, recreate, innovate and renew.
Yes, from time to time you’ll be in the same gear at the same time and will be learning together, producing together, or creating together. But sometimes you won’t and there will be Mis-Gear-Matches so it’s essential for you to not only recognize which gear you are in, but also which gear your partner, child or client is in. What their gear-needs are and shift gears to meet them.
Now that you know more about the Three Gears and when each is needed, it is time to begin shifting up, and down, at the right time in all your relationships so you can have more fun and romance. And feel more fulfilled together at work and at home.
Guest Contributed By Susan Ford Collins
Susan Ford Collins has been called, “America’s Premier Success and Leadership Coach” by CNN. Collins is also the author of The Technology of Success book series which includes, The Joy of Success: 10 Essential Skills for Getting the Success You Want, (October 2015).