Beyond the Headlights

Over coffee the other morning, my neighbor, Deb, explained some drama that a mutual friend was experiencing in her life.

“It’s exhausting,” Deb said with a sigh. “She’s trying to live out her 10-year plan in a minute. And it doesn’t work that way.”

“So what did you tell her?” I asked.

“I suggested that she stop trying to live beyond the headlights,” Deb told me.

“What do you mean by that?” I asked. That phrase was not one I had heard before.

“You know when you’re driving at night? The headlights help you see only so much. You can see what’s immediately in front of you,” Deb explained. “But headlights don’t show you what’s lurking in the woods, around the next corner, or behind you.”

What a novel way at looking at our lives.

As a parent, I spend most of my time trying to teach my kids about how to prepare and plan for all of the things in life that are beyond the headlights. Perhaps I should make equal time to help them process what’s right in front of them today. The foundation for tomorrow’s success is built right now, one good decision or one learning opportunity at a time.

At work I used to spend most of my time planning for the next BIG THING, trying to anticipate where the business would go, attempting to be ready for the next opportunity. And so much of that resides in the world of the unknown, the unforeseeable, or the uncontrollable. My best days at work took place when I savored the moment and took time to celebrate the current successes instead of immediately pushing ahead to the next thing.

The friend that Deb told me about chose to live her life by reliving her past with her eyes on the rear-view mirror and by dreading her future because so much of it remained out of reach from her headlights. What a shame. And what a waste of energy. The best parts of life are experienced in the present, owning and enjoying what lies directly in front of us.

Feeling overwhelmed today because of the great unknowns in your life? Live within the beam of your headlights. Enjoy what you can enjoy, swerve around any obstacles you can avoid. As long as you know that you are in the drivers’ seat of your life and you know that you are on the right road, you’ll be so much more energized if you do what you can do to savor the ride instead of fretting and worrying about each potential bump that might lie ahead…

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