Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership, and Binoculars


The Farther Down the Trail You Can See,
The Easier It Is to Choose the Right Fork.
One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s "The Road Less Traveled." I can easily relate to his dilemma.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
I am thankful to live at a time and place in which we have such a wide range of options in the paths of our lives. But sometimes having choices can be a little scary.
Who has not felt the heart-pangs expressed in these lyrics from "Far From the Home I Love" in the musical "Fiddler on the Roof"?
Oh, what a melancholy choice this is,
Wanting home, wanting him,
Closing my heart to every hope but his,
Leaving the home I love,
While Yogi Berra's famous counsel -- "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." --is good for a laugh, it’s not at all helpful with real-world decision-making. When two roads diverge in the woods of our lives, how do we decide which to take?
I have found two questions that, when used in tandem, give me greater vision and depth perception when I am faced with serious decisions about the direction of my life. Like a pair of binoculars, they help me see further down the forks in the road ahead. They help me study out the question in my mind and get clarity for myself as I prepare to ask for divine guidance
The first question is “What is my purpose?” At my very core, what am I really all about? What was I put on this earth to accomplish?
I am deeply grateful to Mary Tomlinson, my friend and my partner in Legacy Planning Associates, LLC (visit www.LegacyPlans.com), for helping me distill my internal sense of purpose into a clear and succinct personal purpose statement. Her On-Purpose process allowed me to cut through a lot of verbiage and put my finger on the real me in just two words.
Being clear about my purpose has given me greater confidence in my decision-making. When facing a fork in the road I ask myself “Which option is more likely to allow me to stay on-purpose, and which is more likely to pull me off-purpose?
The second question is “How can I serve?” Which option will provide the greatest opportunity to assist others and give back to the world? This second question keeps my life in balance. It helps me remember that it’s never just about me; it’s always about making a difference with the people I love and the causes I support.
This question helps me maintain perspective, a sense of the depth and richness of a life spent helping others. I see the world more clearly because I am not merely looking in a mirror.
Without the second question, I risk becoming a self-absorbed navel-gazer, vainly thinking that the world revolves around me and that this choice is only about my own self-centered happiness. Since a man all wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small bundle, without the second question I’m in danger of becoming microscopic and irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.
I have found that these two questions, “What is my purpose?’ and “How can I serve?” help focus, magnify, simplify, and give depth to my options. They are like a set of binoculars, allowing me to see more clearly the way forward. With them, the right choice is usually pretty obvious.
I believe the essence of an abundant, joyful life is learning to make good choices. This two-question approach has served me well through the years. Perhaps it may be useful to you too.

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