My wife often asks me what I want out of life. It is a big question, but I honestly don’t give it that much thought. My answer is normally that I want to feel like I am moving forward. Recently, I have begun to realize just how foolish of an answer that is. Sure, everyone wants to move forward. What we all fail to realize is that no matter what we do or don’t do, we are in constant forward motion. Every day, we grow a day older; every hour, we get closer to another day. No one can literally be stuck in the past or the present. Things may appear to be going backward, sideways, or upside down, but the reality is that whether we like it or not, we are traveling forward just as quickly (or as slowly) as everyone else. I have come to realize that it is not a question of moving backward or forward. It is actually a question of what direction we are facing as we move forward. Has your life made any 90 degree turns lately, maybe even a 180 degree turn? If so, take some comfort in the fact that you are still moving forward, even if you’re retracing old steps. We spend way too much time worrying about the things we can’t control instead of focusing on the things that we have power and authority over. We struggle, twist, and turn trying to increase our forward momentum, but nothing we do can change that. What we can change is the direction in which we are moving. Left, right, or straight ahead, no matter what we do, we will eventually end up somewhere. The real question is where do you want to end up?
Obviously, when one says that they want to see forward movement in their life, they are talking about progress, success, upward mobility, wealth, power, fame, etc. These are the things that we use to measure our forward movement. If we see any of these areas in our lives diminishing or stagnate, the perception is that we have started to move backward. In reality, it is an issue of moving forward without a road map and without a plan.
I know that I am just playing word games here, but perspective really is everything. For so long, I have been worried about moving forward, all the while forgetting to pay attention to where I was actually going. Progress, success, upward mobility, wealth, power, and fame can all be great things when used properly. Yet, so many people that seem to be moving forward at incredible speeds are also losing their relationships, their values and morals, and their sense of purpose. Consumed by the perception of forward movement, we forget that life is short. In the end, we are all rushing towards the same fate. We all eventually get to the end of the road, no matter our status in life. Our days are numbered and that is a constant forward movement that we cannot turn away from.
My perception of forward movement has drastically changed in recent months (a recently discovered heart condition can do that to a guy). I no longer wish to judge my mobility by what I have gained. My prayer is that God will provide for me and my family, but outside of that, I want to be judged by what I have given. Even as a business owner, I see my success in terms of how many people have I interacted with, and what the outcomes were of those interactions. Did I walk away leaving them empty or did my product, service, employment, job opportunity, or partnership bring hope and value to their lives?
Business has become a cutthroat game, but it does not have to be. It is possible to move forward while giving more than gaining. In fact, I would argue that true forward movement cannot take place in a selfish heart. Success is great, but as business professionals, our job is to interact with people. Whether they are customers, service providers, or employees we have one of the most powerful and important jobs on earth. We can tear down, suck the life out of, and rob, or we can build up, encourage, and give back to the people that we encounter. Business is powerful because it is the lifeblood of society. It creates livelihoods, invents lifesaving products, and provides world-changing services. Without business, we would not have society as we know it today.
So as you move forward as a business owner, employee, teacher, or student, never forget the great responsibility that you have to keep things in perspective. Life is in constant motion; you can’t change that, but you will be accountable for how you move through it.