Connecting the Clock and the Compass

“Time waits for no man.” You’ve probably heard that saying. And it’s true; time marches on, and it’s up to us to keep up with it. We need to be conscious of the clock, or we’ll never make any progress toward our goals. But I believe there’s more to success than reaching goals. True success comes from significance: doing things that matter…things that last after we’re gone.

How do we know if what we’re doing really makes a difference? We can’t just look at the clock. We need to be conscious of our compass.

For many people, the first half of life is consumed by the clock. As young adults, we’re very conscious of time. We’re impatient, eager to “get started” with life. Later, as we start achieving goals, we’re still watching the clock: We want to measure how much we’re accomplishing.

But for most of us, usually sometime in our forties, we become aware of the compass. We begin to wonder why we’re doing what we’re doing. We question the value of what we’ve achieved. We examine whether we’re fulfilled. And then we worry that we’re not making a difference in this world. (A great book for dealing with that struggle is Bob Buford’s Halftime.)

Ideally, as we get older, we start trying to achieve balance between the Clock and the Compass. We try to be conscious of both, which makes us more strategic. We ask, “What can I do that will make the most difference in the time that I have?” We start talking about leaving a legacy.

Ultimately, I believe that no matter what age we are, we all need to seek a balance – between the Clock and the Compass. In other words, we need to integrate a daily focus with a long-term sense of direction. This gives us a better perspective. Here are some thoughts on the Clock and the Compass:

The Clock: The clock is always ticking in this life. Time passes, and we either take advantage of opportunities, or we miss them. So it’s important to keep the clock in mind. But it’s not the only thing, if you want to live a life of significance.

The Compass: The compass is what we steer life by. It remains constant, and we’re wise when we align ourselves with the direction we know we should be going. But just lining up with the compass doesn’t get us anywhere if we don’t start moving.

The clock equals daily things: what we are doing. The compass equals destiny things: where we are going. The clock deals with appointments and activities. The compass points toward vision, values, and mission. Together the clock and the compass provide us with both motivation and direction. Finding a balance between them means that we’re able to compound our efforts and add the most value that we can to our world.

So the next time you plan your day, week, or year, be Conscious of Both the Clock and the Compass, and see how far it takes you.

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