Our life plans work better when we include this key ingredient.
This story is the third in a series about setting an intentional course for your life. If you’ve missed the first two parts, do yourself a favor and check them out before you read this one.
You are meant for great things!
Let’s do great things together!
So there I was, adrift on the river of life, heading toward… well, I thought I was heading somewhere…
That’s when I realized I was just drifting. Caught up in the currents of life, I mistook motion for progress.
I thought I had done something by taking the time to create a life plan. But what I had really done was the equivalent of putting a pin in a destination on a map, then getting in my boat and never taking the wheel, or even looking up to see where I was going.
I mistook motion for progress
The thing I was missing
Not only that, but it never occurred to me that I should look up to see where I was going.
Kinda dumb, huh? (It’s OK to agree with me. It is dumb to say you’re going somewhere without ever looking at where you’re heading.)
Maybe I should explain a little more about me and my thought patterns.
You see, I’m a very transactional person.
Maybe it’s FOMO, maybe it’s attachment anxiety.
I’m not sure.
I just know that I’m not the kind of person who wants to go to the same restaurant and order the same thing all the time. I like to go to different restaurants. I like to explore the menu. Often, when I’ve gone to a place, I never go back. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I’ve already been there, and there’s got to be some other place that I haven’t been yet.
Don’t even get me started on beers. There are so many different ones that I’m not sure it would be possible for me to try them all before I die — but, I’m sure I’ll never come close if I only drink one brand. I had a neighbor ask me one time what “my beer” was, and he was really taken aback when I said I didn’t have a single go-to beer brand. As it turns out, he stocked all of his neighbors’ favorite beers in his fridge for when we would come around. So, I picked one — cause who am I to pass up free beer?
Not only that, I’ll read a book to completion — even after I’ve figured out that I hate the book — just because I want the sense of accomplishment of having read it. Or maybe it’s more that I don’t like the open loop of having something not done. It’s the same with TV programs — once I’ve started the series, I hate to leave even one episode unwatched. That is unless something shinier catches my attention and then I abandon everything for that.
Maybe that explains why I have the starts of 3 or 4 books and who-knows-how-many blog posts in my Evernote… somewhere. (My Medium queue is quickly filling up with unfinished drafts, too.)
So, in retrospect, it doesn’t surprise me that I’ve mentally checked the “Life Plan” off my list. I’ve done that thing, and there’s got to be some other shiny thing that I can chase after next.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that I like to get stuff done — as long as I can get it done all at once. Longevity/endurance is something I struggle with.
I just forgot to look up.
How did I not look up?
Like many suburbanites in America, I drive a car almost every day — and on the days when I do drive, I drive several times per day. So over the years, I’d say I’ve driven thousands of car trips — some long, some short, some in new places and most over familiar roads. But never once have I ever gotten in the car with a certain destination in mind, turned the key, put the car in drive, pressed the accelerator and then completely stopped looking ahead.
That’s a pretty scary thought. I can’t imagine making it more than a couple of dozen feet down the road before running into/over something. Just think of the disastrous consequences that could have.
When you’re moving, you’ve got to look where you’re going.
Correction, you’ve got to be looking where you’re going.
Did you catch the difference there?
You can’t just look at where you want to go. You have to constantly be lookingat where you’re going.
Say, for instance, you’re heading to the convenience store on the corner. You start out from your house, and you know that you just have to make it 300 feet from your house to the 7–11 (never mind that you’d probably walk, let’s say you hurt your foot so you have to drive — it’s better than the alternative: that you’re too lazy to walk 300 feet).
When you get your car to the street and pointed in the direction of the c-store, you’ve looked at where you want to go. Does that mean that you can put on a blindfold and be sure that you’ll make it?
To ensure that you get to where you’re going without causing unintended harm to yourself or someone else, you have to look, and always be looking where you’re going for the entire trip.
So how does this apply to life?
Glad you asked.
Getting carried along
In our lives, we are on this river known as time. Time is always carrying us along. Time is like being in a boat on a river with only a rudder. The river is moving at a constant pace and in the boat, you can steer, but you have no way to move forward or backward, faster or slower. You move at the river’s pace, but you can choose your direction.
Sometimes in life, we get comfortable with the pace at which the river is moving so we think that it’s OK to kick back and take a nap. Just tie the rudder in place, and everything will be fine. Right?
Maybe the stretch of river you’re on is wide and smooth, allowing some room for drift without getting you too far off course.
Maybe it looks smooth ahead, but there are rapids or obstacles you can’t see.
Maybe you’ll have to make a decision to take one of several diversions. If you’re sleeping and letting the boat go where it will, you may end up on a path you don’t want to go down.
Unfortunately, that’s my story.
I set out with a plan.
I set the destination of my life — all the way down to what I’d like people to say about me at my funeral.
And I confused setting a destination with mapping a route.
I saw where I wanted to go, and I referred back to the plan pretty regularly. So, I thought — by listening to all the Go-get-‘em-Gurus out there that as long as I could see the destination that I would get there.
Or at least not exactly right.
Who knows, maybe I can get there by just focusing on the destination. I’ll tell you, though, I’m not willing to drift along anymore waiting to find out.
Am I alone?
Something tells me that I’m not alone. How many of you have found yourselves in situations like this? Please tell me in the comments what you’ve done to correct your course. Or, if you are currently drifting along and want to set a clearer direction for your life, let me know so I don’t feel so alone.
Other Pieces in this Series
Part 3: The One Thing I Was Missing (current post)