Where are you heading? Can you see where you are trying to go?
Earlier this week, I was driving on the highway, headed for a day of meetings out of town. Shortly after the sun went down, and darkness descended upon the roads, a snow storm moved in. At first the snow was fairly light, not really accumulating much. With a slow flick of the wipers, I was able to see where I was heading without much difficulty.
As time went on, the snow storm became more intense, until eventually I was driving in a blizzard. Even with the wipers fully cranked, my headlights reflected off the blowing snow making visibility nearly impossible. Suddenly I couldn’t see where the road was and where the ditch was. My progress slowed down as I let off the gas pedal, trying desperately to see where I was headed. And even at slow speeds, several other travelers still wound up off the highway and into a ditch on the side. Fortunately, with rumble strips on each side, at a slow speed I was able to continue driving along the highway, creeping ever slowly towards my destination.
This night drive in a blizzard holds a few lessons about your journey to success.
Distractions will come.
When visibility is clear, making that drive is quite simple. The roads are flat and straight, so setting your direction and staying the course eventually gets you where you are trying to go. But as with those first few snowflakes, distractions will come no matter your journey. Small pulls on your focus, an email here, a tweet there. Most of these distractions can be ignored when they are infrequent, and they don’t threaten to derail our progress.
But if we let them, those distractions can pull away our focus, and we end up spinning towards a ditch.
There are cliffs everywhere.
All along the highway, for hundreds of miles, ran the drainage ditch. Once again, if you have a clear objective, a goal, you can stay in your lane and progress easily. But when these distractions become too great, you will find it harder and harder to see where your lane is and where the ditch is.
Maintaining focus on your goal becomes harder and harder, visibility decreases amidst the endless distractions. Even maintaining vigilance over your goals and objectives might not be enough. Certainly none of the fellow travelers on that snowy highway were planning to end up spun out on the side of the road. They all had their own destinations, but without visibility over where they were heading, what they were trying to accomplish, they ended up derailed.
You need rumble strips.
What can you do to remain focused on your goals? You know that distractions will come. Certainly you can use different tricks and methods to deal with them. And those wipers work to help you maintain focus on your goals. But, there are times that visibility over your goal will shrink, when the distractions are too many and too great, and they threaten to send you spinning off track. That is why you need rumble strips.
These rumble strips on the side of the highway were indicators that I was coming too close to the edge, that I was straying too far from the path I was taking. Once I heard and felt the vibrations that my wheels were at the edge, I knew I needed to correct my course. You also need rumble strips to keep you on track.
What do these rumble strips look like?
Creating barriers helps you stay on track. This means you need to know where you are heading, and what it looks like when you are getting off track. With holiday festivities just around the corner, some of the major areas of our life will begin to get hectic, with distractions threatening to overwhelm our goals.
My rumble strips are therefore designed to give me an indication that I am falling off track. For fitness, I track the number of days that I miss the gym. If that number reaches 2, I know that on the third day I need to workout, or risk losing the health gains I have worked so hard for. My financial indicator is the amount of money I contribute to my investments each month. (This is easier to hit, because my financial goals are automated.) Or my career indicator is the amount of time I spend reading in an area of focus for me. Similar to my health goals, if I spend more than 2 days without reading and developing myself, on that third day I know that I must allocate time to personal development.
We all face distractions, the blowing snow of life that pulls us away from our goals. Maintaining focus is essential to dealing with these distractions, but sometimes even that isn’t enough. Sometimes we need indicators that let us know when we are falling off track. Setting up indicators in your life will ensure that you are making progress towards your goals, regardless of how hectic life gets.
As we enter the final few weeks of the year, take some time to reflect on what your goals were. Are you still focused on them? What are the distractions that you need to control? Where do you need windshield wipers clearing away the snow? And what rumble strips will you implement to ensure you aren’t spinning off into the ditch?
With the right focus and the right systems, you can reach your destination no matter how bad the blizzard of life is.