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Author’s Note: I uncovered this little gem of a blog in my drafts folder this morning. The draft ended with me typing frustrating in all caps “WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS?!?!??!” because I was struggling with finding direction and as much as I wrote, I couldn’t find the answer. Now, roughly nine months later, I’ve learned five questions that help me find direction in my daily life.
Every day, Heath and I are driving our RV across the country through uncharted territory. We are always on new roads, sometimes backroads in the countryside of Connecticut or bee-lining down I-95 trying to get south before we are hit with snow.
The first thing we always do is turn on our GPS. To say we would be lost without it is an understatement. In particularly confusing places, namely the entire eastern seaboard, we run our Garmin GPS along with Google Maps on our family iPhone. In case you were wondering, the two GPS always give you conflicting directions. We choose our route based on which GPS is acting up least that day. While driving into New York City, I used a hard map atlas, plus the GPS and Google Maps, to direct us to avoid tunnels and toll roads.
Without these tools, we are driving aimlessly, following confusing green traffic signs trying to find our destination and growing increasingly frustrated with each other in the process.
We need direction for the journey.
For over five months now as we’ve traveled, I’ve been an “entrepreneur.” I manage this website, blogging intermittently and sometimes regularly, haphazardly writing about jumbled thoughts and stories in my head. I film an independent project, where only Heath is around to give me insight or advice. Most of my work is self-directed, relying on my intrinsic motivation to get up each morning and write 500 words or publish a new blog or video.
After years of school and working for a boss, I suddenly found myself working without direction. I report to no one but myself.
And I am a terrible employee.
Especially when I’m in rare situations where I have strong Wifi and the ability to stream Netflix.
Or when it’s a beautiful day and we’re parked at RV park in a picturesque autumn forest.
Or when Taylor Swift releases a new album and I’m stuck wearing headphones dancing around the room.
Or any time I can find a quality distraction.
When I worked for a real boss, I always had action items. They were typed cleanly in emails or written on the whiteboard ready to be checked off. In school, they trained us with syllabi and homework assignments to keep you on track. I thrived with their clear direction, knowing exactly what was expected of me.
I never realized how much I needed this direction until Heath pointed it out to me last week. We asked each other under which conditions does the other person thrive. Heath thrives when he’s working on something bigger than himself–something like working in each state across America for a documentary.
“You work best when you have clear direction on why you need to do something,” Heath said to me, seeing a struggle I hadn’t yet noticed.
I thought back to what my mornings looked like. As I began the day, I would open my computer sift through Facebook, my email, and Twitter searching for any loose ends or comments that needed my attention. Then, nothing. I would shift between those three open windows on my computer or jump over to Netflix or maybe even Pinterest to give myself time to figure out what should come next.
I find myself constantly seeking direction. Netflix tells me what to watch. Facebook tells me what to read. Pinterest tells me what to cook.
To be honest, I’ve spent the past month moving pretty aimlessly. Heath and I worked 11 jobs, which means 11 days of filming and 20 days of travel, work, and free time. He wouldn’t call it free-time, but while he worked, I drifted out of bed, sipping coffee slowly starting the day with little ambition for accomplishment. I complained of being tired or uninspired, but I simply didn’t know what step to take first. I didn’t know what I needed to do.
Without direction, we wander in circles like zombies following loud noises and moving lights. (We’ve recently gotten really into the Walking Dead, obviously). We don’t get any closer to where we want, or need, to be.
I can’t imagine driving across the country without maps. We would go no where, finding ourselves lost and exhausted, wishing we knew where we were going. Which is a little of how I feel now, and a little bit how I imagine most people might feel at this age. A tad lost or distracted, trying to find out which direction we should be walking.
I wrote this blog months ago, and recently just uncovered in my drafts folder. I didn’t end this blog with a solution, because I didn’t have one at the time. I’m not entirely sure I have one now, to be honest. At least not one that will work for everyone all of the time.
But I know that I spent this morning flipping through Facebook, and then Instagram, then Twitter, then my email, then back to Facebook where I found myself distracted by an article about Taylor Swift and then realized I’d wasted nearly an hour of my life searching for something to do with my morning. On most mornings, usually after my mind is distracted by the Internet, I sit down to journal. Usually I start my journal with one of three sentences: “Yesterday was a long day…” “I am so TIRED…” or “Oh my goodness I am so starving I think my stomach is eating itself I need to go cook breakfast, bye.”
Really profound stuff, I know. What can I say? I’m a writer.
But then after I eat something or finish my coffee and really get serious about starting my day, I write down these five questions in my journal.
What should I do today?
What makes money?
What makes me better?
What do I want to do?
What gets me closer to my goals?
The simple answers to these questions create a to-do list that outlines everything I need to do in a day. I should edit some videos today. Writing a certain blog will make us money. I know that reading and exercising will make me better. I know that a nap by the lake and a long shower are what I really want to do today because it’s summer. I know that my biggest goal right now is working toward paying off all of our student loan debt, which means I should spend most of my time doing work that will provide income for our family. Publishing this blog and working on writing daily gets me closer to my goal of being an author.
When we were driving through Canada on our way to Alaska last month, the GPS often couldn’t accurately locate us on the map. It thought we were driving into lakes or off cliffs half of the time, which is comical in retrospect but frustrating when you’re not sure where you’re supposed to go. Asking myself these five questions each help me map out my day and my week so I know where to go. They help me find direction when I’m uncertain of which path to take and they keep me going the right way.