When I travel, my daily agenda is always full.
I don't get up late, linger over breakfast, and then start meandering down one country road after another, just to see where they might lead. I'm up early, ready to cram as much into each day as I possibly can. I know exactly where I want to go and, map in hand, I know how to get there.
Come to think of it, that's also how I approach life. I can't just let life happen to me. I need a road map that shows me how to get from where I am now to where I want to be in the future. Of course, if I want to be successful, I can't just leave the roadmap in the glove box. I have to follow it. Diligently.
In our series about travelling through life, we've already talked about travelling light (getting rid of excess emotional baggage and keeping "short accounts") and taking someone with you. Today, my travelling tip is to follow the roadmap. In life, a roadmap is akin to a game plan—a carefully thought-out strategy for achieving success. My game plan probably doesn't look exactly like yours, because my definition of success might be different from yours. But the fact that we might be following slightly different roadmaps doesn't negate the wisdom of using one in the first place. As the saying goes, if you aim at nothing, you're likely to get it.
Regardless of our position and station in life, following the roadmap means:
1. Knowing where you are at this moment. How can you know where you are at this moment? The key word is reflection.
2. Knowing where you want to go. For me, success is knowing my purpose in life, growing to my maximum potential and sowing seeds that benefit others. That's where I want to go.
3. Understanding that life happens between where you are at this moment and where you want to go, and that it's the "between where you are and where you want to go" that causes people to miss life. Some people have what I call "destination disease." They live life thinking, "When I get promoted, I'll be fulfilled" or, "When I get married, I'll be happy" or "If I could just meet that person, I'll be on my way." It's good to plan for the days ahead, but if you're basing all your hopes for fulfilment on some future event, you're actually missing out on the essence of life itself. As John Lennon once wisely observed, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."
When it comes to travelling through life, I can't over-emphasize the importance of following the roadmap. But it's also crucial to note that, even if you're following the best map ever made, you'll most likely have to stop and ask for directions from time to time. I'm well aware that this practice is excruciatingly difficult for some of us. And we just might be stubborn and persistent enough to avoid doing it, at least when we're driving somewhere in a car. But in the journey we call life, people who refuse to stop and ask for directions aren't stubborn or persistent; they're foolish.
Unfortunately, an unwillingness to seek advice is all too common among businesspeople today. In The Corporate Steeplechase, New York social psychologist Srully Blotnick says that career men and women in their twenties tend to be ashamed to ask questions, and in their thirties, the desire to be individualistic makes it difficult for them to counsel with colleagues. The value of advice becomes clear only with maturity, he writes.
That's so true. As philosopher John Collins has noted, "To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it." That said, people often make the mistake of following advice without carefully evaluating it first. To avoid this common error, ask yourself the following questions when appraising the validity of any piece of advice:
1. How credible is the source?
2. Am I getting the same advice from different people?
3. Have I made allowances for any biases, pro or con, an advice giver may have?
4. Have I talked with more than one person so I have a basis for judging the advice?
5. Am I in an emotional state to act wisely on this advice?
6. What is the ratio between the potential cost of acting on the advice and the potential benefit that it may hold?
Taking the time to stop and ask for directions might seem like a big hassle when you're busy with the daily stuff of life. And to some, sticking to a roadmap might seem unnecessarily restrictive. But as one traveller to another, I encourage you to make both a priority. Otherwise, you just might end up on a fast road to nowhere.