I once spoke to a family friend at a dinner party. He was a pilot for a huge company and I felt a little intimidated by his success. At one point, I muttered something to him about not knowing what to do with my life, and how I felt inspired by the fact he had worked hard to get to where he was. He laughed and told me something I’ll never forget – ‘Most of the time I’ve spent working towards this career, I spent doing things that have nothing to do with piloting. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to see that that’s just how the world works a lot of the time.’
I nodded like I understood but he saw through me and continued –
‘Take airplanes, for example. Airplanes run on a navigation system which ensure that they arrive at their correct location; and the way they achieve this is by bringing the plane back every time it begins to go off course. The thing is, airplanes go off course constantly. So they are actually going in the ‘wrong’ direction way more than they are going the right way. And yet, airplanes almost always make it to their intended destination (wind permitting).’
I had always thought that to achieve a goal, I had to be entirely focused on it. That to build momentum, I had to always work on the same thing, never stopping, never altering my path, never giving up. But when I look back on the greatest things I have achieved in my life, they have all come from a process in which I spent a lot of time ‘on the wrong track.’ The thing that made me succeed was always pulling myself back (as the navigation system does for the airplane) to the track that I wanted to be on. My momentum was built from that pulling motion, that reminder that whatever else I am doing with my life, I have a larger purpose that I am always working towards, whether it seems like it or not.
Knowing this helps me to build my momentum for things I want to achieve in my life. When I become distracted, I can calmly accept it, knowing that my goals are still with me. When I am motivated, I know that I can give it all I’ve got until the motivation dries up.
This week I will acknowledge those times that I am off track, and celebrate myself when I get back on track. And like the airplanes that fly over my head, I will remember that I too will end up in the right place.