Early pioneers who helped settle and tame the Wild West had to overcome many challenges as they made progress toward success. Planning enough food and water, avoiding wild animals, maneuvering through Indian territory, overcoming disease, and arriving safely and successfully before inclement weather hindered their progress, were just a few of the factors to consider before loading up the wagons and heading out. Those who headed west were driven by the desire for opportunity and were inspired by the dream of land ownership, farming and freedom.
Helping to spur the migration west was a newspaper editor by the name of John O’Sullivan who wrote, “…the right of our manifest destiny to over spread and possess the whole (land) of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federative development of self-government entrusted to us.”
From the mid 1830s to the late 1860s, hundreds of thousands of settlers, ranchers, farmers, miners, fur traders, missionaries, businessmen and their families made their way through a network of emigrant trails. Following trails blazed by others was beneficial to those pioneers who traveled from the mid-west, however, they also had to avoid the ruts that were cut into the trails by the thousands of wagons before them. It’s been said that at the entrance to one trail a sign was posted that read, “Avoid this rut if you don’t want to be stuck for the next 25 miles.”
Much like pioneers of old who had to carefully avoid the ruts in emigrant trails, today’s business professionals must avoid ruts in life’s paths if they hope to achieve their goals.
Develop a Routine Not a Rut
Some people begin each work day by planning and listing the priorities that need to be done while others plan their day the night before. Some will take the time to review their day's work and see what was accomplished and how well it was done. Some take notes, make adjustments and look to see how they can improve. At the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin developed a list of 13 virtues (which can be found online) in order to continually improve his character. Regarding his work, Franklin wrote, "Industry. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."
A daily routine will help you to be more focused, waste less time and be far more productive.
Develop Goals and Stay Focused on Them
It's good to have goals. What do you want to accomplish by the end of the year? How many sales calls do you want to make each week? How much money do want to have for retirement? When do you want to pay off a certain debt? Which musical instrument would you like to learn?
Setting goals increases one's motivation, drive and achievement. Those who set goals have a tendency to demonstrate greater persistence and creativity in pursuit of those goals as well. Zig Ziglar once said, “I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.”
Developing, focusing, and working toward goals is one way to avoid falling into a rut.
Develop an Accountability System
From Bible studies to CEO peer groups and everything in between, accountability keeps people accountable. Inviting trusted individuals into your life for the purpose of accountability increases a sense of personal responsibility, improves performance, and helps to achieve potential. When a family in a covered wagon found themselves stuck in a rut, others came along side and assisted in the effort to help them out. Allow others to assist you in your effort to avoid falling into a rut, limiting and delaying your success. Trusted relationships are important in the advancement of one's career and the development of their character. As Charlie "Tremendous" Jones said, “You will be the same person in 5 years as you are now, except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
In the diaries of the pioneers who traveled the emigrant trails, they often referred to those trails as, the dusty road, steep road, rocky road, long road, endless road, tiresome road, and winding road. You can't help but to get an image in your mind of the difficulties and challenges those early pioneers faced in their effort to reach their goals. In making your way through life, your professional career, and in your effort to avoid life's ruts, remember to always take the high road.
Mark Turner is President/CEO of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. After 20 years of sales and marketing, he left the corporate world and served 12 years in the ministry as an Associate Pastor before accepting his current position with the Chamber of Commerce.