One Step at a Time This Year

Perry, Georgia's Buzzard Drop
Perry, Georgia’s Buzzard Drop

My vacation was great. I hope you had some time off to relax, spend with loved ones, and do something new. Did you learn anything? My vacation reinforced lessons learned long ago when I was a hard-core runner. Running and driving long distances without companionship is often boring.

The challenge I faced while on vacation at Jekyll Island had to do with all the rain in Fayetteville. I had to make several five-hour long trips back and forth: once out of fear of the basement flooding and the other time because the basement had actually flooded. The problem was solved, so I am not complaining. But the driving back to Fayetteville through the rain on Christmas eve and returning to Jekyll Island on Christmas day was not in the plans.

To get to Jekyll, you can take the highways: 75, 18, and 95, and drive at top speed on four lanes of concrete. Looking out the window, you will experience long stretches of nothing. Instead, you could travel the back roads: 92, 41, and 341 through towns with names like Chauncey, Hazlehurst, Lumber City, and Baxley. Along the way, at this time of year, you’ll see signs advertising the Perry buzzard drop; a local radio station with several blocks of front yard filled with inflatable Santas and other Christmas paraphernalia; pecan orchards with signs noting that it is stealing to help yourself; and lumber pile high– smoked, sprayed and stacked. The distance traveling this route is actually shorter than the desolate highway route, but the speed limits are lower and the stop signs, traffic lights, and two lane roads are more common.

While traveling back and forth, I had some time to think. First, I realized how much better it is to take the back roads. If you are simply focused on getting to the destination and not enjoying the process of getting there, you’ll miss out on a great deal. In life, we need to set goals and strive to reach them, but if we only focus on getting there as quickly as possible, we’ll miss out on a lot of what’s going on around us.

While on these trips, traveling through the heart of Georgia, I also recalled how important it is to establish intermediate goals. You can distract yourself with the radio, singing along to the Christmas carols or guessing the puzzler on Car Talk, but only for a while. If you think about the goal, driving for five hours, time will move slowly. You have to think about driving for twenty minutes at a time, about getting to the next town. On the back roads, you can wonder why that old brick silo stands by itself on the outskirts of town. Or whether the buzzard that’s dropped in Perry on new Year’s eve is alive or not. The lesson is that progress is made by breaking down big goals into intermediary steps. The long-term goals may seem overwhelming if you only worry about the work needed to achieve the end result. Getting a college degree, for example, takes lots of time, money and energy. There will be many sacrifices. If you think about all of those things all the time, it’s more difficult to stay on track. You have to want to get this week’s reading and homework done and find some pleasure in doing the work. Yes, keep in mind your long-term goals and why you established them, but focus on the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. If you try to rush, get careless, or do too much at once you’ll have accidents that will slow you down or make you question why you started down that path.

Most goals worth achieving are difficult. But they are not so hard if you have a good attitude and focus on one step at a time. Got New Year’s Resolutions?