I was raised on a farm and as such learned a lot of valuable life lessons during my youth. One such lesson came the first time my dad let me disk the field. He showed me the basic controls (e.g. how to raise and lower the disk that the tractor was pulling so I could turn around at the ends) and told me to go to the other side of the field and back. I put the tractor in gear and began turning dirt. I was very focused on what I was doing as I wanted to please my father. I carefully went to the far end of the field, successfully turned around and found my way back to him. He had me stop, then asked me to stand up on the seat and look at the dirt I had just tilled. “What do you see?” he asked. As I looked from where I was to the end of the field, I saw a very curvy path cut into the earth. I was surprised how “not straight” it was, as I had been so determined to do a good job. He moved me over to a patch of untouched ground and told me to do the same thing again. However, this time he pointed to a tree at the far end of the field. “Just keep focusing on that tree as you head away. When you’re ready to come back, just focus on me. Don’t look at the ground, keep focused on your target”. So I did so. Once again, upon my return he told me to stand up on the seat and look at what I’d just done. This time, instead of wildly curvy lines, I saw a very straight path going both directions. He explained that “It’s all about perspective”. When I was focused on the ground directly in front of me, I lost sight of the goal – hence the curvy lines. But when I was focused on a distant goal, my resulting path was straight.
I’ve never forgotten that lesson, and it has helped me immensely in my marriage. If I focus on our relationship on a day by day (or hour by hour) basis, our path will stray all over the place. Over time, we can be completely be headed in the wrong direction without realizing what has happened. Instead, I focus on a distant target; in this case an ever growing relationship. Sure there are bumps in the road and obstacles to overcome. But keeping focus on a distant (future), desired state keeps us in an overall positive direction. Looking back on the past 32 years, I’m very pleased that we’ve created fairly straight lines.