Many of us have been in the situation where we thought we knew where we were going but our GPS got us lost. Something happened to me this week that made me realize this may be an interesting analogy to life.
My babysitter is out on vacation so my mom was kind enough to come visit us and watch the kids – for a full week and a half! (Thank you, mom!) While my sitter was away, I needed my mom to pick up my son from middle school after track practice and pick up my daughter from her elementary school after her school play rehearsal.
We sat down with a map and showed her where she was, where the schools were and the routes to take. The next day, she went to the places with the babysitter. But on her first day solo, she got lost. As we figured out where she went wrong, it dawned on me that she knew where she was going, but she listened to the GPS instead of herself. If she had trusted herself, she would have been fine.
The day she got lost, I stayed on the phone line helping her find her way to my son’s school. The entire time, the GPS kept telling her to go the wrong way. After she reached her destination, it just struck me how this scenario feels a lot like life does sometimes.
How often do you feel like you know where you’re going, in life, but you listen to the louder voices telling you to take a turn that you feel may be a wrong turn? And then end up lost? Or you try to ignore all this advice but it’s so loud and persistent, you finally give in and follow it? And then end up lost?
At a micro-level, how are you planning your days? Are you spending your time where you know you need to? Or are you allowing your calendar to be filled up with meeting requests and just go from meeting to meeting without your goals and priorities, your destination, in mind? Are you spending your days doing what you need to do to reach your destination, or reacting to the different directions life is pulling you in?
At a macro level, how are you managing your career? Your family? We have all sorts of voices telling us which way we should go all the time, just like the GPS that doesn’t have the right destination. As you drive, the GPS is yelling at you,
“Turn right. Re-calculating. Turn around. Turn left. Re-calculating.”
As we drive forward in our careers, we hear direction from all kinds of sources,
“Spend more time with your family. Re-prioritize. Don’t take that promotion (Turn around). Make a lateral move instead.”
So we re-prioritize which leads to a totally different sent of directions,
“Lean into your career. Push harder. Reach higher. Demand more.”
As we navigate our life, our career, our family, our day, we need to have the destination in mind. It’s not a literal destination of course but an idea of what we’d like our life, our career and our family to look like “down the road”. We need to define what success and happiness means for ourselves. We need to be deliberate about the priorities we set and live them. We need to know where we want to go. And then we need to ignore all of the things that are telling us to go the wrong direction.
My mom used the GPS as a safety net. It was supposed to help her as she reached intersections where she was unsure which way to turn. But it lead her astray. In life, it’s appropriate to look for advice when we’re unsure of what direction to take our families or trying to figure out how to navigate our careers. But we need to take that advice and ask ourselves if it will really help us get to our destination.
So the next time you read an amazing article or book, or get that great piece of advice from someone you look up to, or add another commitment to your calendar, spend some time considering what it means for you and where YOU want to go. If we blindly follow any guidance or say yes to any commitment, we may get lost. But if we carefully choose which directions to follow based on where we know we want to go, the route there will have a lot less twists, turns and recalculations.