Key Concepts: Advice For The Road

By Dr. John C. Maxwell

If you were to sketch your life on paper, using only a solid line to represent your journey, what would it look like?

If you were totally honest with yourself, your line (like mine) would probably include many U-turns–occasions when you started going one way and then had to stop and change directions because your original plan wasn’t working.

Some people might look at these U-turns as frustrating inconveniences that keep them from getting to their destinations on time. To me, however, they represent change–an inevitable and often critical part of achieving success and fulfillment in life. While change for the sake of change just equals whiplash, changing when you need to change (or, better yet, before you need to) equals victory.

. . .Make U-turns when necessary. Change is hard, and most people resist it. But if you put it off too long, you’ll have a difficult time reaching your destination. So rather than griping about U-turns, embrace them as opportunities to get back on the right track.

(Here are) four more tips that I have found to be extremely helpful on my own journey through life.

1. Appreciate the detours. To be honest, this one is really hard for me. But problems are a part of life, and having a positive attitude about them can mean the difference between success and failure. Here’s what actress Gilda Radner had to say about this: “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned the hard way that some poems don’t rhyme and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

2. Take pictures. Don’t be in such a rush through life that you fail to create memories along the way. Make time for fun. And then stop every now and then to remember those fun times.

3. Go the extra mile. People who go the extra mile do their job and then some. They do what’s required of them and then some. They do what other people expect of them and then some. It’s all about commitment.

4. Stop to smell the roses. In his wonderful essay, “The Station,” Robert J. Hastings talks about how our natural tendency to live for some future event often keeps us from enjoying life in the here and now. “Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all,” he writes. “The true joy of life is the trip.” Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of always waiting for the station. Make it a point to experience each day to the fullest. As Leo Buscaglia so aptly put it, “Life lived for tomorrow will always be just a day away from being realized.”

These traveling tips . . . have been pretty simple, but they’ve guided me well on my journey and I trust they will help you on yours. . . .

I know you don’t need me to tell you which path leads to a productive, fulfilled life. As you journey through life, take the road less traveled, and (to paraphrase Robert Frost) you’ll find that it really does make all the difference.