Who wants to go to Abilene? Just hop on the bus!
On a hot afternoon relaxing and enjoying time together, the family is enjoying a picnic in the backyard as the ice cream maker churns away in the background. The low hum promises to produce a sweet treat to be enjoyed by all later in the day. It’s a sultry summer afternoon and the lazy days of summer have set in. Out of the blue, Bill says, “Let’s take a quick trip to Abilene for dinner!” A little surprised but apparently excited, his wife says, “Count me in.” She glances at her watch a little worriedly, but tries to show her best ‘happy face’.
The couple’s son-in-law is a little perplexed about traveling 90 miles for dinner on this hot, lazy day – but to avoid embarrassment, he says, “Sure, sounds fun. But let’s just make sure Jennie wants to go.” He turns to his wife who is splashing water in the pool on their twin girls.
“Me? Well of course,” Jennie chimes in. “Abilene sounds great. I’ll just get the girls ready.” She wonders why in the world her father wants to go to Abilene today, but he seems to have his heart set on it. She’s never been one to rock the boat after all. And the ice cream will be a milky mess when they return.
They pile into the SUV and head for Abilene, leaving the comfort of their backyard with the low hum of the ice cream maker a distant memory. It’s a tight squeeze in the car and the traffic is terrible. The twins are terribly tired and cranky. When they finally arrive in Abilene, two and a half hours later, Bill asks where they are going for dinner.
“What do you mean where do we want to eat,” huffs Bill’s wife. “I didn’t think of this stupid idea. It was yours!”
Jennie joins in the conversation, “Well I sure didn’t want to leave the comfort of our backyard and abandon the ice cream to melt. I would rather be at home enjoying an icy treat with my feet soaking in the pool and splashing the kids.” Jennie’s husband looks at her quizzically, “The only reason I agreed to come was because it was your dad’s idea and you wanted to come too.”
“Well why didn’t someone say it was a bad idea?” inquires Bill. “I just mentioned it to start a conversation but when everyone was so excited, I figured I had to follow through. It’s not like I enjoy driving 90 miles in the heat for nothing!”
The family sits quietly for a few moments, wondering how this happened. How did they get here? If someone had just spoken up, they’d be lounging around the backyard, empty ice cream bowls scattered about, and splashing in the pool.
In an Abilene paradox, a group of people decide to do something that is unknowingly counter to what the majority of the group prefers.It centers around an obvious breakdown in communication when individuals do not believe their opinions are important, correct, or interesting. They don’t really consider what they want to do, but go along with the majority. Instead of voicing opinions, they go along with the group. Many personality types fall into this conundrum unknowingly – all in an effort to not “rock the boat”.
And no one is doing what he or she wants to do!
Have you stopped lately to evaluate if you’re on the bus to Abilene? Perhaps you’re in a profession because it was what your parents wanted for you. Or maybe you inherited a small business and you’re struggling to keep it going rather than following your real dreams. You could be doing what you ‘think’ you ‘should’ be doing rather than focusing on what you desire to do. Or maybe you’re afraid to take a chance and branch out to do something that will make your life more exciting and fulfilling for fear of failure.
I was on the bus to Abilene once.
I got off.
I hitchhiked my way to a place that was more beautiful, inviting, and inspiring than anything Abilene ever offered. A lot of people questioned why I would leave a financially and professionally rewarding career at that point in my life. They thought I was missing the boat by taking the road on an uncharted path toward a new personal adventure.
Looking back over my shoulder I smiled to myself thinking, “I’d rather eat ice cream today.”
Abilene might be the place you want to be. Or it might not. The point is you have a choice.
If you’re not doing what you love, consider your options. If you’re doing a dozen things that leave you stressed, anxious, and unfulfilled just because you “should” be doing them, pause. Make decisions and choices that are right for you and your personal situation.
And don’t take the bus to Abilene unless it’s something you really want to do.
Read more about personal and professional fulfillment in “Do One Thing and Do It Well” by Amanda Rose.