If You Don't Know Where You're Going, You'll Probably End Up Somewhere You Don't Want to Be

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Here is the scene: I was in high school. It was 1986, and the way I dressed reflected two of my biggest influences at that time, Howard Jones and LL Cool J. My buddy and I were looking for something to do one night when we learned that two girls we were interested in were going up to a party in the hills of LA. We met up with the girls and followed them up through a rich neighborhood to a place the locals called “the top of the world.” It was a beautiful area overlooking Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. When we arrived, we were excited because of the obviously lively party going on. We only knew a few people, including the girls we had followed.

As we settled in and began to talk and hang out, suddenly people in black outfits with guns jumped out of the bushes. It was a sting operation, and we were caught in it! The police had been watching us the whole time. They went through all the cars looking for drugs and proceeded to line us all up, zip-tie our hands, and put us on a bus. Apparently, we were headed to jail. What was I going to tell my mom? My best friend and I were terrified. I was so afraid that I did something very uncharacteristic for me at that time. I asked one of the girls for a kiss. I figured, “What the heck? My life is ruined anyway.” After the peck, we were brought to the station and sat down as the processing began. We were not in possession of any drugs or alcohol, so they had nothing on us. However, we had been at the wrong place at the wrong time. As I sat there in that jail, I asked myself, “How did I end up here?”

Years later, as I reflect on that incident, I realize that I had no idea where I was going. I was being led straight to jail and didn’t even know it. It was not until after this incident that I discovered an important principle I call inevitable movement. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, writes that “there are three constants in life ... change, choice, and principles.” We are always moving, going in one direction or another. There is never a time when we are completely still. Sometimes we think we are still when we vegetate in front of the TV, for example, or take a much-needed vacation. But we are always moving, even then. That night I was going somewhere, and it was not a place I wanted to be. The moral of the story is to know where you are going. I wonder how many kids’ lives could be saved this year if the simple question was asked: where are you going? How many relationships might be saved unnecessary pain and anguish if people simply sat down and at least asked where things were headed. How many parents could be spared the heartache of knowing that they had contributed to raising a delinquent child if they only asked, “Where are my child-raising principles taking my kid?”

The applications of this principle are wide, deep, long, and high. I am not so idealistic as to believe that you can escape the unpredictable parts of life by asking the question, “Where am I going?” But remember, you are going somewhere. Movement is inevitable. The question is not, “Are you moving,” but “Where are you going?” You’re going to end up somewhere in every area of your life. Make sure it’s a place you want to be.