Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Next Steps

Sometimes it is very hard to see the next step.

I like strategy. Every morning I read a chapter of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Every evening I read a portion of Miyamoto Musashi's A Book of Five Rings. What I like about strategy is the concept and ability to plan ahead, to know what the next step is, to execute something and see it completed - or as Dr. Stephen Covey would say, "Begin with the end in mind."

Life, however, so often seems very distant from any sense of strategy.

On the one hand where I am now is probably the output of more not knowing the next step than I care to admit. It's not been all bad, mind you - it's just a fact of life. There are moments where you simply come up for air and say "Hey, how did I get here? Oh yes, I did this and that and this" and move on.

On the other hand, the use of adversity and bad decisions is that (in theory) it teaches us to make better decisions. Better decisions should, in theory, result in a better results. But to make better decisions, you (probably) don't only need bad decisions: you also need the place to which you are trying to get, the next step.

And there, things seem to collapse.

They collapse on two fronts: on the first, because there is a real sense that there is no next step, or at least one that I have any idea of. Every time I look out, I see a series of gray mountains and gray walls, neither reflecting the sun nor giving me an indication of the path out.

On the other hand, they seem to collapse because there are so many potential next steps that could be taken, but each has ramifications of its own. If I do A, then B is not done or D suddenly springs up. And if I set those next steps on what I think the end is, what happens when I find the step by step has led me from that path?

It occurs to me that within each of us, buried somewhere, there is a secret vision of what we would like our lives to really be, that final "end" of which Covey speaks. Sometimes it is so silly, sometimes it is so out there, sometimes it is so personal that we hardly ever seek it out for fear that it is too unreasonable, too silly, or too painful to show. We come to settle for lesser things because lesser things pain us less and thought of failing that vision is simply too devastating for most to bear.

But (and this is conceptual only) what if we, for one day, lived our life based on that inner vision instead of the vision we settle for? My suspicion (and it is only a suspicion) is that the next steps would become clearer - perhaps not the next steps that immediately make our life better, but the next steps that make for longer range satisfaction - because we are suddenly acting from our passion rather than our acceptance.

So perhaps my failure to see the next steps is not a failure of planning or strategy at all. Perhaps it is the deeper issue of looking to see where that secret vision lies and starting there.


gordon said...

Yes! YES! Live for that inner passion, even when it fails abysmally to arise. The journey is infinitely more enjoyable!

Silverline said...

Yes, YES, YES, the inner vision is your strategy, it frames the painting of your life in broad strokes, it provides space for fulfillment. Find your vision, then start focusing on the next steps (the tactics) that will lead you into the painting and create the details of the masterpiece.

To quote Sun Tzu - not just your favorite writer :):)
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is just the noise before defeat.”


Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I cannot read the screen because it mysteriously seems to be misting up. Probably the humidity in here....

Thank you.