This past week, I spent a good bit of time between the Washington, DC and New York City areas visiting families. In fact, I did the trip by car twice in less than a week. I know – not great planning on my part but when parents call….
Late Sunday night, I was about two hours outside NYC when my navigation told me to leave the highway. “Hmm,” I thought to myself. “This doesn’t seem to make sense but maybe there’s an accident or something up the road I don’t know about.”
So, dutifully following the directions, I pulled off the highway.
Four minutes, two toll gates and a few embarrassing moments later, my trusty navigation system had led me onto I95 north – the same road I had just been traveling. Not something you want to happen late on a Sunday night but not the end of the world.
Thirty minutes closer to NYC, my navigation decided it was time for me to get off the highway again. Driving along at highway speeds on my own, I decided not to look at my phone and just give it another chance.
Five minutes, two toll gates, and a few frustrated laughs at myself later….
A Lesson from Circles
Here’s the thing – I’ve driven the road between Baltimore and New York City probably 50 times over the past twenty years. I know quite while how to get from one metropolis to the other without outside help. So, how could I have made the same mistake twice?
I was listening to the wrong voice.
This happens a lot to us in our lives. Sometimes, the voices coming at you are negative and hurtful. Sometimes, the voice speaking to you comes across as helpful, patient, and interested in your well-being. However, whether or not you listen is up to you.
My navigation app has saved me a lot of time and has very, very rarely steered me wrong. However, in this case, I trusted an outside voice over my own knowledge and experience and paid the price.
After getting over the embarrassment, I started to think about all the other voices I let into my life. The people with whom I spend, the books I read, the podcasts to which I listen, the websites I visit, the music I play…. All these voices have an effect on me even if I don’t realize it.
The Courage to Choose
The great news? These are all my personal choices. I get to decide what I listen to, attend to, and focus on. I get to decide with whom I’ll spend time.
I recently read a book by Ray Dalio, a smart man who built a large company doing things differently than most in his profession. One of his central themes includes one of our values. His key to a successful life is a two-step process: you have to first know what the best decisions are and, two, have the courage to make them.
We have to have courage to do things that feel hard or different or weird. Rather than blindly following directions or going with the flow, we need to take some time to think and reflect before going forward. Otherwise, you might find yourself running in circles….
Have a great week!