On a recent trip to Newport RI, we took a golf lesson. I admire instructors who are able to observe a student and understand exactly what needs to change. It’s usually a very small aspect of what we’re doing, but they pick up on it right away. And then, they offer a simple piece of advice that makes all the difference in the world. After watching me miss several swings, Andy suggested that I aim, not for the ball in front of me, but several inches in front of it. So I focused my eyes on that piece of grass in front of the ball and was amazed when the ball went flying in the air, exactly where I had wanted it to go. Each time I aimed at the ball, it dribbled off the tee and rolled a few yards. And each time I aimed in front of the ball, it flew, apparently effortlessly, toward my actual target.
I think this tells us something very important about life.
Often, we get mired in the frustrations or the excitement of the many and varied opportunities of life, not really clear about where we actually want to go. We might try on this thing or that, searching for what feels right, and instead find ourselves going in circles. All of our efforts result in increasing frustration as we don’t manage to achieve a lot of movement toward anything. It’s important to have an idea of what’s important to us – where we want to go. Do we want a bigger component of research in our career? Do we want to become an expert in a particular subject? Do we want to travel and present talks? Do we want our children to be self-reliant? Each of these are admirable goals, and will likely take a lot of effort to achieve them. Taking time throughout our life to take stock of where we are and where we want to go is crucial if we want to arrive at a place of fulfillment in life.
When do you have a day, or even a few hours, to spend time alone or with the people who share your life, to have an honest conversation about your goals? At your next opportunity, check your calendar and schedule this important activity!
But Andy didn’t tell me to look at the green, my final destination. He told me to look a bit in front of my ball. Similarly, if we only focus on the ultimate goal, it may seem overwhelming and we’ll give up. It might feel as if we’ll never get there. Breaking our journey down into smaller steps can make it more manageable. In looking at your eventual goal, ask yourself what you need to do, step by step, to get there. What resources do you need? What extra knowledge or training might be helpful? Who might mentor you or give you advice about the easiest way to reach your goal?
After we define where we eventually want to go, it’s helpful to post a visual reminder of our ultimate goal to keep us motivated and inspired. By breaking our path into steps we can accomplish – continuing to focus on the spot just in front of our ball – we propel ourselves into action. As we succeed at step after step, we can celebrate our progress and before we know it, we will reach our goal. If only golf were that easy!