FARNSWORTH'S FIRST LAW OF LIFE, LEADERSHIP, AND BINOCULARS:
It's Easier to Choose the Right Path When You Can See Farther Down the Trail
One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." I can 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;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I am thankful to live in a time and place in which we have a wide range of options in the paths of our lives. But having choices can sometimes 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 discovered two questions that, 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 questions 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 at 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: Connecting Families.
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 me 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 seldom just about me; it's usually 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 staring at myself 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 my choices are only about my own self-centered happiness. 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 and perspective 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.