Exit Signs

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Do you have a route you frequently drive or walk? An example would be the commute to work. You acknowledge where you are going, jump into your car, shut the doors, buckle the seat belt, turn on the car, put it into drive or reverse depending on how you parked the day before, then start on your journey. You know your destination or at least may have a clue on how to get there with the assistance of a GPS, a memorized route or written down instructions. You proceed down the highways and side streets based on the location of your destination, and before you know it you are either at your destination or snarled in traffic waiting to move forward to your final goal.

I have noticed that driving down the highway to my destination, I cannot recall all of the exits prior to the one just before mine. If pressed I might be able to list most of them off but probably not in order. I can tell you the one just before my exit because it is probably an ingrained wake-up call that “hey dummy, the next one is your exit.” Then the exit to my destination arrives and off I go.

So what is so earth-shattering about this? Why take up this space and your time (and my time to write about it)? It appears to be very similar to other aspects of our lives – goals, careers, family, relationships, and more. Let me explain.

For everything there is a bit of preparation (knowing your destination, getting in the car, seat belts, turning car on), then some journey time with its bumps and curves. And finally you get an indication you are close and then you arrive. The main points — preparation, progress, and arrival – happen in goal-setting by establishing a SMART goal, working toward it, and then completing it (or deciding it is no longer a priority). It happens with careers where there is a start, then with dedicated work some progress and arrival at the highest you can achieve based on talent, skill, ability and openings in the workplace.

So okay, these are generalities but what I alluded to earlier is what struck me as I approached my exit: I never bothered to see or become aware of the stops in-between. I was never curious to see where they went. I could barely even remember they existed and could not I envision how my travel would have been more adventurous, interesting or even way outside of my comfort zone (even problematic) had I taken one of the earlier exits.

The same for relationships, friendships, careers, goals – anything where we set our eyes on tomorrow to the neglect of what is around us today. Goals that give us justification and validation for the actions of today and keep us from being too distracted by everything else life has to offer.

But I have to wonder…what if I had taken an earlier exit. Would my life be richer? Would I have learned an invaluable lesson? Would I have made things messier?

What are those in-between exits in our daily activities? Do they really hold potential or are they just distractions?

Becoming aware that they exist is the first step…now, do they merit a second step and if so what is that step?

Exiting now…before my destination.

Becoming aware of the signposts along the way...not just those that indicate the end of a trip.