I remember learning to drive when I got my license after coming home from the Navy.
A close friend of mine gave me the most important driving advice I had received to date: he taught me to look down the road, instead of directly ahead of the car.
This helped me to track in a straight line along the road.
Now over 10 years later, that friend is in prison, and I’m still driving.
But, I’ve felt that in life, as of late – I just can’t seem to see far enough down the road to track in a straight line.
As a result, I’ve been stagnant in some aspects – and you can’t steer a parked car.
So, what does one do in life when you can’t see down the road, when you can’t picture the path to your destination, or even the destination itself?
You need to look just far enough ahead of you to get going in the right direction.
When sailing, you often have to sail against the wind; although, as any sailor knows, if you point your bow directly to the wind, it will fly right past your sails, leaving them luffing in the wind – and your boat will remain stalled, or ‘in irons’ as sailors refer to it.
To circumvent the inability to sail into the wind, you must sail a series of shorter upwind tacks, allowing your sails to luff only momentarily as you turn through the wind, ensuring you don’t lose your forward motion and end up in irons.
To me, that’s what makes sailing so true to the art and the journey of life. There is no A-to-B journey in life, it can’t be won like that. You have to chart your next tack and trust it’s bringing you closer to your ultimate upwind destination.
You have to be comfortable not heading straight for the finish, but closer to it, and you need to be able to focus solely on your current, temporary destination that’s going to get you there.
But instead of seeing our life’s path like this, we choose to look at life in such a linear way, when in fact it’s not this bridge; it’s not the Autobahn.
Real life, successfully lived, is a series of shorter paths. We have to zig and zag to reach this bigger picture notion of ‘where we want to be’.
If we don’t internalize this and understand what this means, we will be too preoccupied with trying to see far enough down the road to discover our big picture goals, or we will be unmotivated without knowing them.
They key to moving ahead is to focus on your short term goals. If you can’t see the end destination, pick a short term goal and tack to it.
And perhaps you can see the bigger picture of your end-destination but maybe it seems too far off to reach from your current position, either way – find and focus on the next intermediate destination that will take you closer.
This is a simple lesson, but one that will benefit you greatly in traversing the journey of life.
For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.
~~ Richard Bode (First You Have to Row a Little Boat)