We steer where we stare (Untucked Column #14)

I am directionally challenged. I admit it. If it were not for the compass in my car, I would have a really hard time telling you what direction I am facing. For years, I was convinced that every direction I faced was north! And because of that, I am a GPS junkie. Even when I am in larger cities that I visit frequently, I still use my GPS. If I’m being honest, sometimes I have to break out Google Maps in my hometown when I don’t know where something is! I think my favorite thing about GPS is the redirect feature built into it.

The reason I love the redirect feature is because there are times I get distracted and miss my exit. Sometimes the flow of traffic has shifted and the GPS is taking me a different route (although I do wish you could choose a “please don’t take me through the shady part of the city even if it is faster” option)! Initially, I’m annoyed. I lose sight of the fact that I will still get there but it is going to take me a little bit longer than I had originally anticipated and maybe through a different route. Things didn’t go according to my plan.

Isn’t it unreal how quickly our thoughts can derail us and get our emotions worked up into a frenzy? It happens to all of us. We suddenly realize what we’re thinking and wonder, Wait, how did I work myself into such a state? Maybe you’re angry again. Frustrated, lonely, disillusioned, heartbroken, anxious, fearful, defeated. You hopped on a train of thought and it took you to a place you don’t want to be. Our thoughts, like a train, take us somewhere. And sometimes it’s a bullet train to a dark place.

You get on YouTube for something specific. An hour later you're watching videos on alien conspiracies and how to fix a tractor engine. You wonder "how in the world did I get here?!?" We intend to do something, got side tracked, and eventually look up and are in complete bewilderment where things went sideways. Fortunately, every browser has a home button - a place that gets you back to where you started much like the re-direct feature in GPS apps.

We have the power to manage our thoughts. We have a choice about whether or not to follow the train of thought we’re on, or change trains so we don’t end up where we do not want to be. People don’t believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them. They often believe what their friends tell them. They always believe what they tell themselves. The voice you believe will determine the future you experience. As a person thinks in their heart, so are they.

Wherever we focus our attention the most, will become the driving force in our lives. We steer where we stare. Maybe on this journey called life that we are all on, we have taken some wrong turns. Maybe we put our trust in people who stabbed us in the back and we let anger and bitterness drive our decisions. Maybe we experienced a loss in our life that absolutely broke us and we went down a path we never thought we would. Maybe we pursed an opportunity that we were sure would be the payoff we had been hoping for and it turned out to be a disappointment. So, rather than re-adjusting our direction we keep going down that road because we have told ourselves that we deserve what is happening to us. When we invest in a choice that falls short, we’re often tempted to invest more.

Friend, I have been there. Too many times, we let pride get in the way of adjusting course; because to do so would be to admit that we made a mistake and concede that we didn’t get it right. Other times, there is such a heavy weight of guilt and shame that it cripples us. However, there is so much freedom in first admitting to yourself that you’re not perfect, you are going to fall short, but as long as you have breath in your lungs there is still hope.

In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you. This includes the wrong turns, the distractions, and mistakes. It’s never too late to reset that GPS, hit the home button, and set a new course – taking all that you learned along the way with you!

Steve Sauceda