Rear View Mirrors

by Krishna on December 29, 2006

Several years ago when I took my first license test in the United States, my friends advised me to periodically look at the rear view and side mirrors while taking the test. So as the police officer took me around a block in Salem, New Hampshire (deserted, one-lane back-roads), every few seconds, I would methodically turn my head to prove that, yes, I knew enough about driving to check the mirrors. I don’t know if it really helped, but I know I got my license that day.

The reason that I had to do this consciously is that checking the mirrors was not something that I did often while I was learning driving. The most important then and now was always to look ahead, go in the right direction, stop when needed and don’t hit anyone or anything. It doesn’t mean that I never look at the rear and side mirrors — I only check on them every so often to check if anything will interfere with what I am doing or if I am making a change in what I am doing (like a lane change or exit).

As in driving, so in life and business. There must always be a forward focus — concentrate on the vision and the end goals. This could be a business goal like becoming the top manufacturer in the industry or a personal goal in our career, family, social life, religion, etc. When we move towards our goal, there will be many kinds of distractions. It is necessary to pay some attention to them so that they don’t interfere with what we are doing, just like we would do with the side mirrors. But to totally spend time or money on a distraction will make us fall off the road to our goal.

Hence, it is very important to define what the central goal is. If the goal is to lead a happy family life, then your career or job is a means to the end. Pay just enough attention to the job so that you meet your professional obligations, but focus on your family. If your goal is to become a business leader or a politician, you may have to sacrifice other pleasures of life and just spend enough time to meet your personal responsibilities. This is a necessary trade-off. Ultimately, each one of us has to make the decision and live with the decision.

Frustrations occur when we want to place our legs in both boats at the same time. It may be possible, but it is difficult to do justice to either side. There will be several instances when we have to choose between two needs — if there is no primary goal, then the person is thrown into a dilemma. For example: would you choose between an alumni event where you may meet some very dear friends you have not seen in years or a business event where you may meet new prospects that can take your struggling business to the next level? What is a greater obligation: the obligation to meet old friends who may have helped you in the past or the obligation to make the business successful for your shareholders and the employees?

Balance is difficult. Prioritize life. Decisions become easier.

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