I had occasion this week to meditate on the old saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else,” as well as its corollary – call it Ashley’s Law – “If you don’t watch where you’re going, you’ll bump into something else.”
The problem this week wasn’t that I didn’t know where I was going. The problem was that I wasn’t watching my steps along the way and tripped off the path without realizing it. I was looking at the big picture and not the details that made up each thing and affected its outcome.
The result was that I spent a whole day somewhere I didn’t want to be and then spent half the week retracing my steps – a path of no little embarrassment and inconvenience. Fortunately none of it involved public failure, and little else was affected, but the point is that I could have been doing something more productive with my life.
It’s a lot of effort to pay attention to everything that should be paid attention to, but, perhaps, less effort than not paying attention for a while, flowing along and assuming everything is fine. And that’s true of a wide range of things.
It’s a lot of effort to track your spending and ensure you’re on budget, easy to assure yourself you really haven’t been spending much lately, and far more effort to climb out of debt after the fact.
It’s a lot of effort to lift our heads from each busy day and crashingly exhausted evening and look ahead at what else might need to be done – but more effort, when the deadlines loom, to try to cram weeks of activity into the few days or hours left.
It’s a lot of effort to implement compliance programs and make sure the employees are trained; much easier to assume the company is full of smart, professional people – and much harder (and more expensive!) to defend against harassment lawsuits or government accusations of fraudulent accounting.
In each case, you know where you’re going, but you’ve assumed you can get there on the path you’re on.
The thing about bumping into things is that it tends not only to hurt, but to knock you off course. We’ve all done it: walking from one end of the room to the other, focusing on where you want to be, you stub your toe.
“Ow! Ow! My toe!” you scream, as you clutch the injured organ, hopping and falling about the room and ending up several feet sideways from where you were originally – if you’re lucky – or else crashing into something else in a scene of escalating hilarity (and fury, depending on how many people are laughing).
I’ve always been one of those clumsy people constantly covered in mysterious bruises, and as a child, any time I acquired one, I would howl in protest, “The wall bumped into me!”
But we all know otherwise.