If there’s one thing you learn from watching movies or reading books, it’s this:

Things get worse before they get better.

Conflict drives a story, makes it urgent, makes you sit enraptured during the commercials, makes you turn the page. It’s the essence of a good Super Bowl.

It reflects the story we face in life. When you attempt to be better, it means change. Change means conflict with what is already there.

Popular wisdom says you cannot do the same thing you did yesterday and expect things to get better. The popular quote has been attributed to everyone from Einstein to Rita May Brown.

It makes us want to change what we’re doing if things go badly. If we want different results we have to do something else, right?

What if you were right?

But what if you were on the right path yesterday? Maybe it’s a longer process than you thought. Maybe you make a difference you can’t see quite yet. Maybe you changed the world – just a little – in the right direction.

Rather than reinvent your life whenever you don’t get immediate results, maybe you should simply make sure you’re doing the right things and keep on.

Just because your life gets worse doesn’t mean you’re doing the wrong thing. Often the right path involves conflict, growth, tension and resistance.

Life is not lived in a lab.

It’s not as simple as mixing chemicals in certain proportions and setting up a controlled experiment. Repeating the same exact experiment over and over might be nuts. Or doing the same math problem and expecting different answers.

But if you are on a journey and you don’t get there today, it doesn’t mean you failed. Journeys take time. Progress is slow, sometimes frustratingly so. We lose track of progress like we lose track of time.

Are we there yet?

That eternal question from the back seat is a perfect illustration. Time is relative. Progress requires perspective.

As we grow more mature, we learn patience and persistence. We learn how far Grandmother’s house really is.

Quitting smoking

The average person who quits smoking requires six attempts, some more. The brain takes awhile to believe you really mean it. That’s the way change is – a journey to Grandma’s.

So the question should really be, do we want to go to Granny’s house in the first place? Is that the right destination? Even if we have to stop for gas or have a flat tire?

If we make sure we are doing the right thing, then persist, even failure is progress. It is failing in the right direction for the right reasons.

Where am I going?

That’s the better question. Why am I going there? What is my purpose in life, not just for the moment, but for my lifetime? Am I doing the right thing?

If I have that question wrong, then it’s time to stop and turn around. It’s time to look for another solution. Or it might be time to try another method of transportation or a different road.

Maybe you need to hit a rest stop or get some lunch. Maybe you need to stop and get some directions from someone who has already been there. Maybe you need a little help.

Keep discovering.

Very often, you find your direction when you are headed somewhere else. But you don’t often find it sitting on the side of the road, or from the back seat.

Call it an adventure. Call it exploration. But don’t call it quits.


Photo: by oddharmonic via Flickr