Escape Routes

What if…

you had to work on the top floor of a 50 story building with no escape route in case of emergency? Would you do it? What if the pay was phenomenal?

I wouldn’t.

A building without an obvious escape route creates anxiety and discomfort, even if it is just on a subconscious level. Today I’ll be discussing how creating escape routes for the situations in your life will help to reduce this anxiety and create a more productive and conscious effort on your part.

Have you ever felt overburdened by your current obligations? Stress levels directly correlate with the attitudes we exude and the actions we take. If we make decisions on a shaky emotional foundation, we’re setting ourselves up for a less than ideal experience.

How do we seek out the best opportunities for ourselves and weed out the rest? It’s easy. It’s all about recognizing your options.

Most of the decisions that we make aren’t permanent. We have the choice—at just about any time—to cancel them. I like to call this possibility for cancellation an escape route. It’s an idea that can serve you in many ways.

Mentally acknowledging an escape route can offer you freedom. How? You’ll know that your current activity is 1) something you want to be doing, 2) something that will help you achieve your goals, or 3) something that you don’t want to be doing that won’t help you achieve your goals.

When using the escape route technique, you’ll be able to:

Fairly evaluate the activity—functioning at a higher level of thinking, you won’t be stuck nose-deep in the daily grind. Instead you’ll be able to cast your view to the future.

For instance, say that your current 9-5 secretarial job is becoming a nightmare. You’ve been bombarded with stacks of papers to file, and on top of that, you’re constantly distracted by your dream of becoming a fashion consultant (a la Rebecca Bloomwood from the Shopaholic book series). As a part of your plan, you’ve decided to save up enough money from your current job to give you a nice cushion before taking the plunge.

You’ll come to terms with the fact that your secretarial job is a means to achieving your dream, and you’ll treat it just so. You won’t obsess over the paperwork you have to do, or spend countless off-duty hours thinking about the stress that it brings you. You’ll leave work obligations at work and start planning for your venture into fashion consulting.

Think clearly—putting things into perspective always makes me feel grateful for what the present moment has brought me. In the grand scheme of things, a moment of screwing up isn’t going to ruin your life. You’ll understand that undesirable tasks are transitive pieces of life, and not monumental hardships.

Recognize bad situations—and let go of them. If something isn’t working for you now, and it isn’t furthering your goals, then you don’t need to waste precious time thinking about, or doing it.  After quitting, you’ll have freed up your life to do things that you are actually interested in, as opposed to something you just got “stuck with.”

The College Burnout Dilemma

The things we’ve signed ourselves up for can, at times, seem impossible. Identifying your escape route will help to dispel that notion.

Here’s an example of a common college experience:

One day during midterms last quarter I had a meltdown. I was frustrated. Super frustrated. Like I-want-to-pull-my-teeth-out-with-pliers frustrated. I had a test, readings, and an essay left to write with only two days left to complete them. That’s when I decided that I wanted to quit school.

I fantasized about that scenario for a solid 30 minutes until I realized that I had better things to do with my time.

The weird thing is, when I think about the fact that I chose to be in college and that I’m doing all of these assignments for the benefit of having a degree, I relaxed and put everything into perspective.

Worst case scenario? I quit school. I can quit any time I want to. I say to myself, “This one essay, one homework, one test won’t have that great of an effect on my life as a whole. I’m okay.” And I work through it. I haven’t actually quit school, nor have I had to entertain that thought in my head for more than two minutes before I get back to studying or writing.

-Jenna, 20

Obviously in this case, Jenna used the escape route framework to convince herself that what she was doing was worthwhile, and basically not to sweat the outcome too much. The rest of her life was not dependent on this one night of completing homework.

Be Your Own Consultant

You’ve got the key to the engine, and you tell this puppy when to go. You’re in control, so don’t let anyone trick you into thinking you “have” to do something.

Tread carefully when you take others’ advice. No one will know your situation better than you do.

As autonomous thinkers, we should be thinking about our escape routes often. They’ll help us assess our situations and make sure that every moment is a result of our finest intentions.


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