It all started when we heard this curious science story on NPR which reported that without a distant point of focus human beings are incapable of walking in a straight line. In fact, without a point of reference to guide us, it appears we humans (intelligent creatures though we may be) will naturally circle back to the place where we started. It gives credence to the commonly held belief that people who are lost will wander in circles.
So we decided to test it ourselves. Our whole family. All six of us. We went to a local baseball field, tied on a blindfold and did our darndest to stay on the straight and narrow. And guess what? No luck. Within an average of 20 or so feet, we all began to veer off center and then proceeded back to our point of origin. The funny thing was (having donned the blindfold myself) that I was quite certain – and I mean as sure as I was sure as I was sure – that I was walking in a perfectly straight line.
Here is somewhat humbling video proof that I couldn’t do it:
So we tried the experiment again, this time with a blinder on (that my son designed) that only allowed us to look at our feet (the hypotheses being that if you could see your feet aiming in a straight line – all you would need to do was follow them to stay on a straight path). And again – though in general we fared better than our first trial with the blindfold on, we eventually began to bend back to where we began.
Life is kind of like that, metaphorically speaking. We either close our eyes to the reality that we are in or we stick our noses heedlessly to the grindstone — and though we know we are expending energy and we may feel for all the world that we are making forward progress – we will look up after some time and find that we have spent all our energy only to wind up precisely where we began.
And so we need a point towards which we orient our lives. A goal. A beacon. Something that will keep us moving forward. If we are going to be successful in life, we have to look up and out.
I have a vision board that I created at the beginning of this year. I enjoy having this vision board and I spend time with it every day, but I want to be clear though that I do not believe vision boards have any kind of magical quality. I don’t believe that just because we cut things out of magazines means these will miraculously manifest in our lives. Gluing pretty pictures of the life we want on a piece of poster board does not naturally mean that we have that life coming to us.
I have a picture of Oprah Winfrey on my vision board gleefully proclaiming that the whole world “absolutely must read Your To Be List”. But I don’t imagine for a second that I could sit around in my pajamas all day, playing solitaire on my computer, and Oprah will just come knocking at my door just because I cut her picture out of a magazine.
However, I do think that picture reminds me that the goal of my work is to get it out to as many people as possible. I want that to happen because I really think that reading my book and understanding its message helps move people out of painful and stuck places in their lives and gets the engaged with the deeper meaning and joy that is available to them. Oprah represents that goal to me. Playing solitaire in my jammies will not get the message out. Writing this blog will. Teaching will. Speaking will. And my vision board reminds me of that.
Visions are points of reference that guide our movement. They keep our heads up and our eyes brightened to possibility. They keep our steps straight, our actions focused. They keep us striding in the right direction. With our heads up high and our eyes wide open, we will see opportunities when they arise. And with purposeful movement, we’ll create our own opportunities. We determine our path. And we must move forward on that path with steadfastness, with faith, and with vision.
And somewhere along the way, we may be surprised to see some new point of focus that we didn’t even know existed when we began. We may see another point on the path that calls to us and we may intuitively shift in a new direction. We may choose to wander from the straight and narrow path, but that is just the point: it will be our choice. Because on the straight and narrow path between Point A and Point B, there are an infinite number of paths beckoning. And with our heads up and our eyes open, we will be able to see the signs that point us in their direction.