Are you spending all your time shoveling?

Let me tell you another true story.

A friend of mine, who I will call Tom, took a summer job with a company that was an asphalt paving contractor. Asphalt is a black tar-like substance that is used to cover surfaces. The asphalt is typically created as a hot mix of petroleum hydrocarbons, sand or gravel that is heated and poured at temperatures between 300 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot mix is loaded into trucks that transport the asphalt to a site that is being paved, such as a roadway, parking lot, driveway, etc. Since asphalt is petroleum based, it has a very distinct and overwhelmingly unpleasant smell.

One summer day, Tom arrived for work and the temperature was already nearly 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity. It was a sunny day with no clouds in the sky.

That summer day, Tom was assigned to the shoveling crew that loaded the hot asphalt into the trucks after it was created. His supervisor told him to grab a shovel and started shoveling. There were a bunch of shovels lined up along the wall and Tom just picked up the first one he saw. He immediately started shoveling the hot asphalt into a truck.

As Tom was shoveling, his supervisor walked over and said, “Shovel.”

Tom started shoveling a little faster. His supervisor, then repeated a little louder, “SHOVEL.”

Tom started shoveling much quicker. The temperature, humidity and smell were immediately taking a toll on Tom and he started sweating profusely.

His supervisor, then repeated even louder with more emphasis, “SHOVELLL.” Tom started shoveling even quicker.

Tom was not sure he could make it through the next few minutes shoveling at this pace. He knew he would certainly not be able to make it through a whole eight hour day shoveling this fast.

At this moment, Tom was shoveling as fast and hard as he possibly could. He was already past the point of personal exhaustion. The vigorous activity in the heat and humidity and the smell of the asphalt were making him dizzy and nauseous. He was close to passing out.

Tom’s supervisor’s face was now turning bright red. Obviously, Tom was not doing what his supervisor wanted.

Tom’s supervisor ran quickly over to Tom and screamed in his loudest voice, “SHOVELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.”

Tom knew he could not shovel any faster and was ready to quit this job and just go back home. Tom stopped shoveling and just stood still while his supervisor approached.

At that moment, Tom’s supervisor just grabbed the shovel Tom was using and said in a calm, collected voice,

Give me that shovel, you are using the wrong kind.”

So what kind of shovel are YOU using?

Stephen Lesavich, PhD

This true and funny story illustrates three important things to consider in any life situation you are facing.

You don’t need to be using an actual physical tool like a “shovel” to apply the lessons of this story to your life. The lessons can be applied to just about any situation in your life, your job, your relationships, your daily interactions with spouse, significant other, family, friends, co-workers, etc.

1. What tool, technique, method, approach you are using for your current situation?

Take a moment to step back and determine what tool, technique, method or approach you are using for your current situation. Did you put any thought into your selection? Or did you just pick it because it was available or it was the one you always pick and use? Can you make different choice? If so, what choice would that be? How would a different choice affect your current situation? Do you need to select a different type of “shovel” to get a different, more favorable outcome?

2. What communications style are you using for your current situation?

Is your communications style clear and concise? Have you conveyed the necessary information? In many situations, an improper communications style directly results in misunderstandings on many different levels, can cause resentment and often leads to an undesirable or improper outcome. How can you improve your communications style for your current situation? You will certainly need to say more than one word like “shovel” to effectively communicate your instructions, goals, point of view, feelings, etc. Never assume that anyone has an immediate clear understanding of what you are saying or trying to say. You will not get want you want unless you say what you mean.

3. What level of effort or actions are your applying to your current situation?

In most instances, working harder and harder and putting in more and more effort never brings the desired results. It just leaves you feeling tired, discouraged and lacking motivation to continue. You need to be in balance and in alignment with the results you desire for your current situation. If you are not in balance and alignment, then no amount of additional action or effort will ever bring results you desire. Instead, you working harder and expending more effort to “fix” a problem just brings up additional issues or problems faster than you can ever fix them.

If you are out of energetic alignment with your desired results, there is no amount of effort you can engage in to “fix” a problem. If you focus your energy on the problems, you just attract more problems to fix. So focus your energy instead on being in energetic alignment with the solutions you desire. Then you will not have to work harder or faster to obtain your desired results.

Tom could have been in a better balance and alignment by selecting the correct tool for the job and directing additional questions to his supervisor when he kept repeating the word “shovel” instead of just shoveling harder and faster. Tom’s supervisor could have been been in better balance and alignment by quickly telling Tom he had selected the wrong shovel for the job and would not have had to yell repeatedly at Tom.

If you find yourself “shoveling” harder and faster in any situation, step back and look for a better balance and alignment in your current situation instead and if you need to, grab a different kind of “shovel” that includes clear and concise instructions on how to use it to obtain the results you desire.

I think I need a new type of shovel in my life. How about you?

Out There on the Edge of Everything®…

Stephen Lesavich, PhD

Copyright © 2021, 2023 by Stephen Lesavich, PhD.  All rights reserved.

Certified solution-focused life coach and experienced business coach.