I was recently on the phone with a personal-growth author while she was driving to her son’s soccer game. We were discussing her latest book when she suddenly said, “Oops! I took a wrong turn! Can I call you back?” A few minutes later she called to say she was back on track, and we resumed our conversation (until she reached the soccer field).
Maybe it’s because we’d been discussing personal-growth topics, but we both thought that this wrong turn was a great metaphor:
We ALL take wrong turns sometimes!
The question is: What do you do when this happens?
- Do you bang on the steering wheel and curse yourself for being so careless?
- Do you blame the “stupid” road signs and/or faulty directions?
- Do you refuse to admit that you took a wrong turn, and obstinately continue the way you’re going?
- Do you step on the gas and go speeding as fast as you can in this wrong direction?
Hopefully, you don’t (although I admit I’ve fallen into point #2 on occasion).
None of these approaches helps you. They just make you feel bad, they waste your time and energy (and gas), and they certainly don’t get you back on track.
The most helpful course of action is very simple and straightforward:
- First, recognize that you’ve taken a wrong turn–that you’re heading in the wrong direction.
- If you know where you are, turn the car around until you’re back on track.
- If you’re lost, stop and ask for directions.
(And, of course, you have to know where you want to go–otherwise, you could end up in some rather comical/surreal conversations: “Hi, can I get directions?” “OK, directions to where?” “I don’t know.”)
It seems so simple when we look at it in terms of driving, but what happens when you take “wrong turns” in your own life–actions and/or decisions that don’t lead to your desired destination?
- Do you expend a lot of energy needlessly berating yourself (and/or others)?
- Do you deny that there’s a problem–that you’re not heading where you intended to go? (“Yes, of course I meant to drive past the exit and go over the bridge!”)
- Or are you humble and wise enough to recognize the wrong turn, get help if you need it, take action to get back on track, and learn from the experience?
Most of the time, wrong turns are no big deal–especially if you catch them fairly soon. My author-friend, for instance, found her way back to the soccer field and arrived in time to see her son’s game. And now she’ll know the way for next time–and be able to help anyone else who might need directions (including what to watch out for: e.g., “If you see a post office, you’ve gone too far!”).
Also, remember that sometimes “wrong turns” can lead you somewhere even more wonderful than your original intended destination. Sometimes, “mistakes” can turn out to be some of the most fortuitous events of your life. So don’t be too quick to label something a “wrong turn”–even if it feels that way at first.
But even if it is a wrong turn, that’s OK, too. Unlike most highways and busy intersections, in life, U-turns are always permitted!
When was the last time you made a wrong turn? How did you get back on track? Have you ever made a “wrong turn” that led somewhere even better than where you’d planned to go? I’d love to hear your comments and experiences!