Over the last few weeks I have been travelling in Australia and New Zealand. Sometimes I have been travelling with friends and sometimes on my own.
I’ve learnt lots of new things, mostly through trial and error and with the help and kindness of strangers. Who knew you were not allowed luggage on the train from Wellington? (it has its own secret carriage) Or that shops often shut at 4pm and lunch finishes at 2.30?
I’ve been grateful to many people for their directions and help. I also have several observations.
- People are kind and happy to help – and pleased to be asked for help.
- People are proud of and keen to tell you about the area in which they live.
- People like to recommend places to go and things to do and see.
- People are interested in where you are from and how you have enjoyed visiting their country.
- Most people have a friend or relative in the UK that they wonder if you know.
- Most people are rubbish at giving directions.
Most people are rubbish at giving directions because they know too much about the area and tell you information that is irrelevant. Most people also start by telling you the way not to go. For example….
Helpful person 1
- Helpful person 1: “So you come out of the station and on your left you will see the water.”
- Me: “Great – So I look for water…”
- Helpful person 1: “Don’t go to there”
Helpful person 2
- Helpful person 2: “Go to the end of the road. At the roundabout see the big council building, with a yellow and blue sign and to the left of that there is a park.”
- Me: “Great – so I’m looking for a council building, yellow and blue and a park”
- Helpful person 2: “Don’t go that way”
Helpful person 3
- Helpful person 3: “At the bus stop you see a deli type shop with beautiful flowers in the window and it does excellent coffee.”
- Me: “OK – looking for the deli and flowers”
- Helpful person 3: “Don’t go that way – go the other way”
OK so I think you get it. My question is; wouldn’t it be better to focus on what I should be looking for and where I should be going, rather than giving me information about the landmarks that I should avoid?
It makes me think of a driving analogy that a friend told me.
“You are driving. The road is icy and your car spins out of control. There are telegraph posts at about 10 metre spaces along the roadside. If all you think about is not hitting the post, the likelihood is that you will hit the post as that is what you are focusing on. What you should be focusing on is aiming for the gap. You need to focus on where you are going.”
We often spend time concerned with where we don’t want to go, whether in work, relationships, life or simply giving directions to hapless travellers.
If we focus on where we do want to go rather than on where we don’t want to go, surely we stand more chance of arriving at the right destination?