Mind the Gap

08/06/2011 11:35 am ET | Updated Oct 06, 2011

On a recent trip to London I stole some time for myself at the end of a seminar -- a new plan of mine to begin slipping into another "pace" when I travel -- and took the sort of long walk that this city seems to always provoke in me. Serendipitously, I found myself standing in front of the London Transport Museum, a glorious collection of historic trains, carriages, buses and the city's fabled black taxicabs. I had never been inside. I loved it.

As I walked through the exhibits, I re-discovered the famous signs warning passengers to "mind the gap" between the train door and the station platform. Introduced in 1969, it is painted on the edge of curved platforms as well as played as an audio message as trains arrive. The phrase is widely used in transit systems around the world, from Paris to New Delhi.

But it's one of those phrases that keeps replaying in my head.

Aren't we often too busy to mind the gaps in our life? That is, until we are jarred by an experience that suggests we don't have enough money or time, or that we're not tall enough or handsome enough or that we were just short of being chosen? In our leadership practice, we provide formal evaluations for executives to carefully measure the gaps between where they are and what they aspire to become -- the gaps between self-awareness and others' perceptions.

I worry that we too often get stuck in certain gaps that we choose to make permanent. I believe we can transcend our gaps and gaffs with awareness, less personal judgment of our lapses and a guilt-free action plan. We are so hard on ourselves. A mentor, partner or pal can give us the insight to push through our perceived lapses like a butterfly bolted to a bullet, if we are paying attention and have the courage to try. The great Satchel Paige reminds us to "Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching."

Our challenge: To stop constant multitasking and begin listening and paying attention. We can, if we try, become a person on whom nothing is lost. We can choose to enter our own life again.

There will always be gaps in our understanding, our skills, our judgment, in what we thought should have happened. But loving ourselves enough to discover and celebrate our gifts gives us the deep breath we need to step over the space between where we are standing and the obstacle (real or imagined) that may stand in our way.

As we slip into midsummer, hot days are still upon us, but our nights begin to lengthen along with the reminder that time is flowing into a new season. Shouldn't we, like this month, surrender our harsh assessments and inventories of what we don't have, what should or could have been ours, and lean into the wisdom that this moment, rich or poor, fruitful or barren, is what we have? What we chose.

It's not a time for "minding" all of the gaps because in doing so we obsess about them and miss the magic of what sits on either side. It is time to accept the very gift of life -- the precious moments we are granted. Will we, like late summer, allow ourselves to ripen and mature? To be open to, accept, and dare I suggest, welcome our next season?

I know ... it's easy to say ... the transition from parchment to pavement requires courage, and the willingness to trust that it will be alright to pause, listen, sort for surprise and delight and take the next step.

We never know how much time we have. Perhaps, in this season of transition, it is time to surrender and enjoy what we have and who we actually are.