Stop signs

I was taking a walk this week and took a picture that made me think:

If you look very closely, you’ll see a stop sign very faintly in the middle of the picture. It seems like it could be meant for me if I were to continue straight toward it. In reality, the path curves to the left, so the stop sign is for the cars.  My question this week is about our perceptions of stop signs: Whom are they meant to stop?

Any of us who drive know the rules of the road and that stop signs mean that you need to come to a full stop (except here in California, where we think it’s alright to roll gently through them sometimes). I’ve been driving long enough that I get irritated with people who ignore stop signs because of the potential for harm and sheer illegality of the behavior. Warning: Here’s where I’m going to change lanes with only a very brief signal.

How do we feel about people who try to stop us in our efforts because of their experiences? I try to listen without judgement, wish like heck that they would finish giving unsolicited advice, and consider their point for as long as I can. Sometimes, the person has a relevant experience that offers insights about potential pitfalls or roadblocks. Sometimes the person has no idea (at least to me) what they’re saying. And sometimes, the person is threatened by a choice that I am considering that would scare them if it were their life. In any case, I remind myself to thank the person for the advice, keep what is pertinent, and let the rest go.

So what has this to do with stop signs, you ask? What one person may view as a stop sign in his or her path may not apply to anyone else. In fact, we often place our own stop signs out of fear or ignorance. Like traffic, some stop signs are indeed for our safety. However, I can think of countless times that I have had to stop for no apparent reason (don’ t you hate that?) while driving through some remote area. Self-imposed or irrelevant stop signs keep us from living life as fully as possible.

The next time you stop yourself from doing something you want or allow someone to talk you out of something, I want you to ask if the stop sign is for you. On the journey of life, we each have different road rules, so one person’s stop sign may not apply to anyone else. And sometimes, you need to make the road rules up as you go.

Note: I take no responsibility for any traffic tickets that may result from ignoring stop signs or other traffic-control devices. 🙂


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