Thursday, May 14, 2015

Look Where You Want to Go, Not Where You Don't

A few years ago while vacationing at the beach, something possessed me to take a surfing lesson. I struggled mightily to even get on the board--I'm not exactly athletic. Miraculously, I did learn to stand after an hour or so, and I even caught a couple of waves. But the rides never lasted for more than a few seconds and each ended the same way: I crashed into another surfer. "Why does this keep happening?" I asked my instructor with exasperation. His reply has resonated with me ever since: "Dude, stop looking at those other surfers. Look where you WANT to go and not where you DON'T." He explained that surfers will inevitably go in the direction they are looking, even if they think they are trying to do otherwise.

Some months later, I was observing an after school bicycle program for young kids and witnessed something I had never seen before. The instructor was teaching kids to ride their bikes on a long two-by-four beam--that's right, two-by-four. So these kids had to keep their bike wheels within a four-inch range or they fell two inches to the ground. The kids who were having the most trouble kept their heads down, looking worriedly at the ground in an attempt to keep from falling. They fell off every time. "Keep your heads up and look where you want to go!" admonished the instructor. With great surprise I watched child after child ride the length of the beam without faltering--and each one looked toward the finish instead of at the ground.

So these two experiences flipped on a light switch. Does this wisdom apply to most every pursuit in life? By worrying and over-focusing on our fears, do we actually manifest what we are trying to avoid? I can name a handful of personal instances in which that idea rings true. More than once I have confronted angry people with my own anger--solely because I was anticipating a fight. Such anger was always counterproductive. Had I imagined a gentler conversation, might that have been the result? I can say for sure that the times I have visualized a positive outcome ended successfully more often than not. I looked where I wanted to go instead of where I didn't. 

I would love to hear other examples of this--or refutations if you have any to share. Please comment!