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I was on my morning run the other day, and as I approached a red light, I began to slow down. As I neared the intersection, the light turned green, and I sped up, continuing my run.

It reminded me of a childhood game I used to play called Red Light Green Light. Perhaps you remember playing the game as a kid as well. One kid would be the caller and all the other kids would stand on one side of the room. When the caller yelled out “Green Light!” we would run as fast as we could to the other side of the room. When the caller yelled out “Red Light!” everyone had to stop running immediately and freeze.

Sometimes I think the game Red Light Green Light is a lot like life. Our life journey is a mix of our own effort (i.e., our running) and our circumstances and environment (i.e., the color of the light). If we focus our energy in the places where we see open doors and opportunities, we tend to make progress toward our goals. But if we try to push too hard in places where the doors are slammed in our face, we can expend a lot of energy but not make any progress at all.

I was thinking about how this principle applies in my own life, particularly in my dating relationships. Awhile back there was a girl I met and went out with a few times, but it was pretty difficult. She wasn’t too available, and she didn’t respond when I tried to make the initiative to hang out with her more. I kept trying, but it was a red light. I was expending a lot of energy, but I was just getting frustrated and feeling badly about myself. I am better off focusing my energy on relationships where I am getting more of a green light.

I see a similar pattern in my work life. I remember trying to work with a funding agency on a grant idea, but it didn’t seem like they were too excited about my idea. I kept trying to improve the idea and make it better, but it was a red light. I was putting in a lot of energy, but the circumstances were not favorable, so I didn’t make any progress. I am better off focusing my energy on work projects where I am getting more of a green light.

Discussion: Do you feel like you are expending a lot of energy in an area of your life, but are running into a red light? How could you refocus your energy and spend it in a direction that is more of a green light?

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