"When your intention is clear, so is the way." – Alan Cohen
A few weeks ago, I was driving from Brooklyn, New York to my home in Massachusetts. The trip normally takes around 3 ½ to 4 hours. I was starting at 2:00pm, well before rush hour. There was snow in the forecast, so I planned on a 5-hour trip, getting home around 7:00pm.
The snow started before I left the parking lot. The highway was already backed up, and my GPS recommended that I go through Manhattan. I was familiar with the route along the Hudson River, and while it may add a few miles, it probably would be quicker.
And it was. For about 30 minutes. Then everything stopped.
If you search the internet for “New York Snowstorm November 2018” you’ll find headlines that include the words “paralyzed”, “chaos” and “havoc”. The reality was worse.
It took over 40 minutes to make it through one intersection. At one point, I had my car in “park” more often than “drive”. In 6 hours, I only drove 7 miles.
As the hours ticked by, I started reassessing how long the drive would be. If I could make it to the highway by 8:00, I should make it home by midnight. I called my wife and told her to plan on 1:00am. Just in case.
When I reached the highway, the traffic cleared, and I was able to go faster than 10 miles per hour. I’ve been driving for over 40 years, mostly in New England, but I wasn’t prepared to see the mayhem around me. For every 2 miles, there was at least one car spun off into the embankment. I passed at least 10 trucks that had jackknifed, including one that had flipped onto its side.
My goal shifted again. I didn’t care what time I got home. My only objective was to get home safely. I was in a 4-wheel drive vehicle but had to remain aware of the many cars around me that weren’t. I stopped every hour to rest my arms, walk around and get another cup of coffee.
At 2:30am, I pulled into my garage. The ordeal was over.
I believe in the power of goals. When we set a worthy objective, we’ve begun the task of improving ourselves. When we know where we want to go, and who we want to become, we can set a course to that future state. We begin the journey.
The overstated hero myth centers around those who pursues their goal at all costs. They push through any hardship, overcome any barrier and vanquish any opponent. They’re relentless, enduring sacrifice and pain to achieve their objective. There’s no alternative to success.
However, how often do we ask ourselves, “Are we pursuing the right goals?”
Our introspection begins with questioning the reasons behind our aspirations. If the end result helps us become a better person and the challenges help us grow, we know that we should continue onward. When the target is arbitrary, and the risks involve potential harm to ourselves and others, then we should consider letting go of our ambitions. We must always know the “why” for our actions.
As the situation changes, we need to reassess our reasoning again. What was important when we started our journey may not be relevant. The more information we gather, the better we can decide what’s the best way forward.
Socrates declared, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The same is true for our goals, and the paths we take to get there.
Postscript: To my southern friends and family who might suggest that moving to a warmer climate would have solved my problem – I’ve lived in other states, in the South and in the West. However, Massachusetts is my home – my connection runs deep and my roots deeper. The inspiration and love I have here are worth the risks and challenges brought by the winter.