In soccer, the referee carries with him or her, a set of cards. These cards are yellow and red. If you watch soccer, on occasion you will see a referee hold up a yellow card to a player, and on more rare occasions, he or she will hold up a red card. A yellow card, when given, signifies a warning, a penalty or a reprimand. The official holds the card above their head while looking at or pointing to the player who has committed the offense. It tells the player in no uncertain terms that they have crossed some line and that they now have been fairly warned. If they choose to adapt their behavior and follow the rules there is no follow up action from the official. However, if they commit another offence they receive a second yellow card, followed by a red card, which then forces their removal from the game. It is possible to accumulate yellow cards from game to game in a tournament as well, also resulting in removal from the match.
Each of us is give warnings from time to time in our daily lives. It is very, very easy to miss these warnings or to simply ignore them. I have been laughing to myself thinking about how helpful these physical yellow cards could be in our lives. The soccer players who receive yellow cards are often simply overdoing what they have trained to do. They have been trained to challenge an opposing player to steal the ball; but when they do this too vigorously, the yellow card is shown. They have been trained to go for a loose ball; but when they injure another player in the process they have crossed the line. If the yellow card were not shown, they would simply assume that this behaviour was acceptable.
In our daily lives, we often find ourselves in trouble when we too overdo some personal trait that usually serves us well. I for instance, love to be organized and I love nothing better than a list of jobs that I have written and that I can accomplish. This, when kept in the realm of healthy does not get me in trouble. But when I forge ahead with my list, ignoring the impact I may be having on others, I might benefit greatly from a yellow card popping up to warn me that I have taken my good skill to excess.
People who love to help others also have great skills and great intentions. They too can run into trouble when their love of helping others distracts them from some of the more mundane tasks they are also responsible for. In this case, imagine the value of a yellow card popping up just before they said ‘yes’ yet again!
In even more simple instances, think of the value of a yellow card showing up when we see signs that we are overtired. So often we simply ignore this, even when we put our health in jeopardy. Perhaps a yellow card would serve to remind us when we haven’t given due attention to our coworkers or family. I know that I could have used one on occasions when I was training hard, heard gentle whispers from my body that I was overdoing it, and yet forging ahead.
There are many, many personal traits that serve us well when we use them within the ‘rules of the game’. Consideration, openness, confidence, boldness, focus, consideration, diligence and likeability are just a few. When we overdo any of these, we end up with a result that we had not foreseen and often don’t want.
My challenge for you this week is to notice an area in your life where you are overdoing some trait. Picture a yellow card of warning popping up to help you reset, and get back in your game. Sometimes backing off even 5% can make all of the difference. Play on!