The first Christmas break of my college career, my high school friends and I decided to go snow skiing.  Our excited troupe from Florida loaded up in four cars and headed north towards the North Carolina mountains.  After stopping for gas at an exit in Georgia, one of the members of our group turned onto I-95 South while the rest of us took the Northbound exit.  Since this was before cell phones, the other three cars pulled off to the side of the road to determine what to do.  We finally decided to proceed onward towards our destination, confident our friend would figure out his mistake and that his intelligent teen passengers could help him find their way north, eventually.  


He passed us about an hour later, driving 85 mph, his passenger hanging out the window and laughing vigorously.  The driver swears to this day he saw a sign telling him he was headed north.


I learned a valuable lesson in self-leadership that day.  Your direction determines your destination.  You will never get to North Carolina traveling I-95 South from Georgia; no matter how fast you drive, no matter how passionate you are.  Seems obvious enough.


But we watch people fail to reach their destinations every day.  Worse, people accomplish what they stated they wanted to do, but the route they take to get there is littered with detours, causing pain and unintended consequences.  The wrong exit ramp can make a path tortuous and longer than it needs to be. 



Here are three principles to help guide you directly to the destination – and path – you desire.


  • Set your direction before your destination. – In leadership parlance, discover your PURPOSE before you set your GOALS.  Goals will give you the energy to proceed, but purpose will make sure whatever you do is consistent with the direction you want to go.
  • Our internal compass often lies to us – Your internal voices are loud and clear.  And they’re often very wrong.  We see this in our speaking workshops, where we implore people to Mind the Gap by getting honest feedback and studying themselves regularly on video.  It’s true in life as well.  There is no limit to the amount of rationalization or dumb logic we can create.  Recognizing this and mitigating our stupidity through wise counsel and accountability is wise self-leadership.
  • Stop and confirm your direction… frequently – This is an adage taken from a keynote I gave years ago when I was flying called Checkpoints on the Flight of Life.  I am more than ever convinced that regular monitoring and evaluation is key to accomplishing anything significant. If you are trying to lose a few pounds, weigh yourself every day.  If you want to be a great speaker, record and listen to yourself every day.  If you want to be more financially responsible, set a budget and track all your expenses.


Where are you trying to go?  Based on your current location, are you even headed in the right direction?  What exit or on ramp are you about to get on?  Don’t pour on the fuel of passion until you are sure you’re traveling towards the end destination.


Direction matters.  Where are you going?


Communication Matters.  What are you saying?


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This article was published in the June edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.


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