By Mary Ann O’Neil

I was recently  boarding a train to New York from the Stamford, Connecticut station.  While approaching the train, I could not help but read the warning message on the ground at my feet that read in bold letters, “watch the gap.”

The strategically placed warning message was obviously noting that there is a space – a gap – between the platform and the step onto the train that could cause a mishap if I was not careful.

But what about the other “gaps” in our lives?

“Hmm,” I thought to myself.  “There is a gap.  The gap could be hazardous. Good to know.”

This warning was difficult to miss –it was right where it needed to be at the moment I was about to board the train.  I minded the message, watched the gap, boarded  the train and had an uneventful ride to New York City.

But I couldn’t get my mind off the sign and its significance to life in general:

“Watch the Gap.”  

When we are not at our personal best, a gap exists between our current behavior and what we have set as our goal behavior.   I was grateful for the warning at the train station alerting me to a gap that I didn’t know existed.  The letters were bold and clear and the warning appeared just-in-time.

Getting passed up for a promotion at work  may indicate there was a gap between our performance and the performance expected of us.  Failing in a marriage or personal relationship may be because of a gap between our behavior and  others expectations.

Generally, we act surprised when these things happen, as though we had no idea, no sign in front of us that said “Watch the gap!” when, if we’re paying attention (“watching the gap,” if you will) we can usually realize that our boss indicated her disappointment about our missed deadline, or someone close to us tried to tell us they needed something different from us.

Were the signs not bold enough?  Or did we just refuse to see them?

With that fabulous yet ever-so-late thing called “hind sight,” I can remember the signs that my marriage was changing.  I had an uneasy feeling on several occasions. I weakly approached the subject but was led to believe I was imagining something.  I was even told flat-out loud that my marriage was in trouble by a third-party.  But I didn’t “watch the gap” (I didn’t even see the gap!) until it was too late.

Billboards are used by advertisers for a reason.  They are big, they are bold, and they entice us to purchase products and services.  Television ads are  louder than our regular TV shows for a reason, and we pay attention to their message.  And the sign at the train station is bold so that we do not fall.

But billboards and TV ads are not going to warn us of the gaps between where we are and our personal best. We need to create our own kind of signage and ways to measure our progress.  We need to identify the gaps early so we can close them… or at least minimize them.

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