Nothing clears out brain clutter like a road trip. Miles upon miles of staring down the open road is like an open invitation for stray thoughts to present themselves for analysis.
Last week I logged almost 900 miles of road time to visit a dear friend in Tennessee, which was so enjoyable, but still—that’s a lot of miles and a lot of time. All kinds of thoughts decided to come along for the ride. Mostly these were creative ideas that have been simmering on the back burner, beckoning me to bring them front-and-center. Some were languishing troubles and raw spots that needed tending and attention.
One thing in particular has stayed with me. As I watched the road markers pass, mile after mile, I began thinking about precious nature of life. Markers are passing, day by day. Many markers fly right on by me without notice because I’m busy living. Afterall, life is not lived best by watching the clock tick time away.
But time is ticking, nonetheless. Whatever I’m doing in each day, hour, moment is the pattern of my life. It’s like I’m weaving a rug or knitting a scarf with each passing day, and the pattern of my work is evident. There’s no hiding the rug or scarf that’s being created. Do I like what I see?
Do I like the pattern that’s being produced by my life?
I was chatting with a friend a few weeks ago about her work. She’s doing some long-range planning to get from where she is today to where she wants to be in about three years. (Conversations like these always amaze me, because I’m not sure what I’m doing three minutes from now, let alone three years.) She said something like, “I could keep going the way I’m headed and be successful. But that road leads to a place I don’t want to end up. So it would be better to turn back now, to stop doing the things that lead me further down that road, so I can start moving toward the place I actually want to be.”
Whatever things I’m doing (or not doing) are leading me somewhere, to some end. And if that’s not the place I want to go, I’ll need to change up my routine.
As much as I love thinking about the day ahead and getting it all situated in my planner and work tracker, I’m not great at seeing how all the little pieces and parts make the whole. I have a bunch of tasks to do each day, but I often don’t see them as connected to a larger purpose or goal. It’s not easy for me to determine if the steps I’m taking each day are leading me where I hope to be.
It may not be natural for me to see a step-by-step route that leads me where I want to go. But I can learn from friends who have this skill in spades. To start, I’m asking a lot of questions to help me see the pattern my life is producing and to consider ways to course correct. I’ll share a few of these questions in case you want to assess the pattern of your life with me. And if you have a few questions of your own, share them in the comments so we can find our way together.
- What pieces of my daily life (i.e., work, relationships, actions, etc.) bring the most satisfaction?
- How can I best use my gifts, talents, and passions for the common good?
- How can I invest in and serve others?
- What creative projects (for me, it’s writing, podcasting, etc.) do I dream about but haven’t been pursuing?
- In three years, what accomplishment or growth do I want to see in myself and through my work?