Once a colleague and I were travelling back from a meeting in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. I was driving and, after pulling over to take a call, I took the wrong on-ramp to the highway. My colleague and I had been chatting away for about an hour when we suddenly realised that we had been travelling in the wrong direction, heading towards Johannesburg instead of Durban. We only noticed once we saw a signpost saying we were nearing Harrismith. We had a good laugh, turned the car around and called our spouses to let them know we would be late.
In Andy Stanley’s book The Principal of the Path, he says, “It’s your direction, not your intention that determines your destination”. As a friend, leader and coach, I have found that many people find themselves in a place they did not intend to be, and yet find themselves in. I am sure we have all had that coffee, lunch or chat over the phone where the distraught person on the other side of the table or telephone is telling their story and, as they get halfway through, you already know the outcome – and you wonder why they never did until it was too late. What is most shocking is that they are often totally astounded and shocked by this outcome and the perceived injustice of it all.
Now before we all get on our high horses, tilt our noses skyward and look down on these precious people, let’s take an honest look at how many times we have done the exact same thing. What makes us do this? Most of us have an “it won’t happen to me” attitude when the momentary pleasure of the moment outweighs the risk.
If I told you I was going to get on the highway and go North but expected to land up South, you would think I was a silly. Even if I told you that I just knew I could do it, or that I was praying that I landed up South while traveling on the North road, and that I was declaring it every morning, you would probably think I was crazy. And yet, we sometimes do just that with our lives.
I was recently at a traffic light where a middle-aged man was standing with a sign asking for money. As the light changed, I wondered what could possibly have happened for him to be in the place where he was now. The sad part is that he probably didn’t just wake up one day to find himself on the streets. There was a path he chose, one bad decision at a time, that led him to the destination where he now found himself. No matter how many good intentions he had, it was his choices (destination) that determined his path.
So how do we prevent ourselves from getting onto the wrong path?
Know where you are going
It is vitally important to know where you are heading, and what your blueprint for your life or business is. Do you have a clear idea of where you are going? Do you know what THERE looks like? Knowing your destination will make your decisions easier. When I have to make a decision, I always look to see whether it is going to lead me to the destination I desire or lead me off the path. Even when it looks good for now, if it leads me away from the end goal, I know this is not the path for me.
Take a look further up the road
I have used this technique often with clients. I ask the client to look further up the road and imagine how a particular decision will play out. An example was a client who was wondering if staying in a toxic relationship because of guilt was worth it. I got her to look five years from now, having made the decision to stay in the relationship because she was not feeling strong enough to make the hard decision now. When she looked down the road five years into the future, the momentary agony and hurt suddenly didn’t look so bad and she was able to make a decision that, although painful for a while, led to a life of freedom and happiness later.
Listen to that still, small voice
Lastly, but most importantly, we need to learn to trust that still, small voice that leads and guides us to an abundant life. The more we rely on it, the more we will learn to trust the leading of the Holy Spirit. He leads us on a road that isn’t always easy but is always best for us. And when we stray and choose the wrong path, He is there showing us the way out.