Anyone who has worked with me for an extended period of time would agree there is an aspect of my personality that could easily get me labelled a Gap Finder. What’s a Gap Finder? I may have made up this term (I am honestly not sure if I’ve heard it somewhere before, or if it is just something that popped into my head one day), but its meaning would be familiar to pretty much any analytical person. A Gap Finder is an analytically focused person who tends to look for and find “gaps,” problem areas, and potential failures waiting to happen more than they tend to identify positives, strengths and opportunities. It may be that this is just an occupational hazard suffered by those who have spent a long time working in an analytically focused trade, or it could just be a common personality trait.
The Problem with Gap Finders
The problem with the Gap Finder approach (yes, i’ve identified a gap associated with the act of gap finding, itself) is that problems, challenges, and issues tend to get highlighted over everything else, and this can certainly make the overall landscape seem rather negative. This can also really pull the Gap Finder’s focus away from positive developments or areas where there is something inherently good that just needs a little bit of uncovering.
So what is a Gap Finder supposed to do to start seeing the positive possibilities in things again?
Hitting the Trail
Growing up in the 1970’s, I became enamored with distance running. This was partly because I was never a great athlete, and it just wasn’t that hard to be a decent runner. It was also something I shared with my dad, who was going through some pretty difficult times during this time, and running on the beach seemed to really helped him manage his stress.
In those early days of running on the beach with my dad, I was more concerned with my split times than anything else: I just wanted to go as fast as I could. I was a teenager. I didn’t understand yet that exercise could become a great stress relief tool, or that it could renew your perspective. More than forty years later, I am now beginning to get a taste of what exercise — particularly trail running — can do to shift one’s perspective. When you are running on a trail and you begin to feel that you have removed yourself from the usual frenzy and often crippling stress of modern life, your perspective will shift. There is no way to miss that shift.
Is it possible to obsess about issues when you running on a wilderness trail? I only know I haven’t been able to turn on my Gap Finder senses when I am plodding along in the dirt.
One Trail. Many Journeys.
Maybe it is something about my love affair with metaphors that makes trail running so appealing (isn’t this just another way for me to search out my path), but I always see so many opportunities for positivity when I am out here. Everyone appears to me as a kind of acquaintance, as I run by small groups of hikers and mountain bikers. We all seem to have an inexplicable camaraderie.
Up ahead I see a woman looking very intense and more than a little stressed, as she walks up the trail toward me. I smile and say “good morning” (if she had been running up the hill, I might have said “good work!”). Her face instantly melts into a huge smile and she replies with an even more enthusiastic “good morning!”
Every single interaction out here in this dusty canyon is like this.
If there are so many problems in the world and everyone is trying to deal with their gaps, why are my interactions out here on these trails always so positive?
I think the answer is simply that everyone out here is on a different journey, and although some of those journeys may include significant difficulties (I have no idea what is going on these people’s lives, and I am sure they are dealing with many stressful issues), but, even so, there seems to be a tremendous opportunity for positivity in the lives every single person that passes by.
Perhaps we simply need to set aside the Gap Analyses from time to time. I suppose one way to look at is: would you rather die as you endlessly scrutinize the gaps you've identified (you're just about to complete your analysis), or would you rather die running down this trail?
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