We have all heard the expression “life is a journey, not a destination.” Many times we forget that truth in the chaos of real life with necessary tasks, budgets, work projects, “Black Friday” sales, holiday events with families, and a host of other deadline driven items. We have a tendency to forget that for all practical purposes, there is no finish line in our lives. We continue to journey-on despite how many tasks we complete, goals we accomplish, or “bucket list” items we check-off. We seem to find new, important items on the back page of our once completed check-list.
In addition to the realization that we will always be on a journey despite how many tasks we complete, at certain points in our lives, we realize that life is not a smooth ride:
- As a young student, when school days move from recess and story time to homework, grades and standardized assessments that place us in the “average” bucket.
- As a young athlete, when the tryouts and cuts come as participation moves from “everyone who signs up” to only those who can help the team win.
- As a college student, when an education begins to cost real money and the once theoretical calculation of “return on investment” becomes a meaningful and relevant discussion.
- In the workplace, when a steady job is not as predictable as we had hoped for and all the effort to do our best and perform well is met with “downsizing objectives” because of global competition and changing consumer trends.
- On the home front, when the reality hits that “family” can bring about extremes of tremendous togetherness and joy to absolute loneliness and heart-breaking struggle.
In facing the reality of a steady flow of new items on our check-list and the “bumpy” ride we call life, how can we be most effective in dealing with the fact that life is a journey and not a destination? Amongst the chaos of real life, we need to ensure our efforts are heading in the right direction.
Here are two practical steps to ensure we are heading in the right direction:
(1) Determine the “right direction” for us personally.
A very simple exercise is to ask ourselves the question, “How would we want others to describe us if we were not sitting around with them?”
- As a student, how would I want a group of teachers and students to describe me?
- As a family, how would I want my spouse or children to describe me to their close friends?
- In the workplace, how would I want my coworkers and customers to describe me?
The answer to those questions will help set our compass to the “right direction.”
(2) Focus on taking small steps, anchored on principles, in the right direction.
No matter what direction we declare for ourselves, ensuring our day to day behaviors (small steps) are consistent with principles like honesty, understanding, perseverance, loyalty, will be our most effective means to deal with the “bumpy” ride of life and still keep heading in the right direction.
- As a student, taking small steps like participating in class, asking questions, taking time to complete assignments vs. cramming.
- As a family member, taking small steps to listen before passing judgment, encourage instead of belittle, serve instead of take, let forgiveness replace bitterness, ensure thankfulness trumps taking for granted.
- In the workplace, taking small steps like looking out for the team’s best interest vs. our own, being proactive on getting additional training instead of remaining anchored in outdated skills, speaking up on issues of integrity and respect vs remaining silent.
In a world that continues to grow more complex, ensuring we consistently take small steps in the right direction will help us remain highly effective along our journey of life. As we guide our small steps by principles like honesty, loyalty, and courage, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to set a strong example for others to follow and help us all to keep heading in the right direction.