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Your direction determines your destination (video)

the next best step video Mar 18, 2022

One thing determines where you end up more than any other factor…

Namely, the direction you go.

I’ve had a lot of people challenge this one. For instance, years ago, I worked in a rehabilitation and re-entry program, helping men and women transition from prison and the streets into the next (healthy) chapter of life. 

“I know you don’t want to be where you are now. You want better and different. That’s why you’re walking through this  process,” I often said.

Then, “But, in order to know what better is, we need to know where we are now- and define it- so we know where we want to go from here. And then we need to move in that direction…”

 Your direction, I explained, and consistently moving in it, would prove more consequential in their recovery process than any other thing.


In fact, nothing matters more 

Now, I didn’t create this concept. I first read it in Andy Stanley’s book The Principe of the Path: “Your direction- not your intention- determines your destination.”

He probably wrote it more eloquently than that— but this is how I remember it.

 In other words, you end up where you are headed, regardless of whether or not you wanted to end up there. You may need to read that sentence again- it sounds odd, because it’s so overly obvious.

Back at the recovery center, people were always convinced that something else mattered more… 

“I should just pray,” one might say. 

But prayer won’t help if you continually align your actions— your direction— in the opposite direction of what you’re praying for.

“I should just think more positively,” another might add.

But positive thinking just means you’ll be happy-- even as you head in a random direction. 


Practically speaking = what happens in your car

Think about it like this: If I want to travel from Birmingham (where I currently live) to Huntsville, I must drive north. If I drive south, regardless of how much I want to go to Huntsville, I will never arrive there. 

The only thing that will help is if I change my direction.

  • My intentions will not help
  • More praying will not help
  • Having more faith will not help
  • My IQ will not help
  • My background will not help (whether it be religious upbringing, practical experience, or even economic status)
  • Seeing the “bright side” of things and having a positive outlook will not help
  • Even having friends and family encourage me to “keep at it” won’t do anything to get me there

Why will I end up in Huntsville if I go north? 

Because that’s where that road heads. 

Why will I not end up in Huntsville if I drive south? 

Because that road ends up somewhere else. 

The truth is simply this: My direction is what determines my destination. 

The road you are on determines where you go for no other reasons than:

  1. You are on that road, and
  2. That’s where that road goes


You end up where the road goes, every single time

This concept is easy to grasp when you consider it from the perspective of driving somewhere. However, it’s often difficult to see that the same concept that applies to moving forward down the highway also applies to moving forward through life. In fact, people regularly argue against me on this concept!

If you find yourself on the wrong road while driving (let’s say it’s still the same road from Birmingham to Huntsville, but you accidentally drove south towards Montgomery instead), you have a few options: 

You can:

  • Change directions and make it to your destination (i.e., put it in reverse, do a U-turn in the middle of the road, catch the next exit and turn around), or
  • Continue in the same direction and miss your destination

In life, the transition might not be so simple (see The Principle of the Path):

Worst case [in driving], you’ve wasted a few minutes or hours. But when you get lost in life, you can’t backtrack. When you get lost in life, you don’t waste minutes or hours. You can waste an entire season of your life. Choosing the wrong path in life will cost you precious years...

Sure, you can learn from experience (“I guess I’ll just have to learn it the hard way,” some people say), but experience eats up the most valuable asset you have- time. It makes more sense to just “plan ahead” and map the course.

By the way, whether or not you agree with the concept it doesn’t matter. It still effects you. It’s like saying you don’t believe in gravity, the laws of aerodynamics which allow planes to fly, or reaping and sowing. When you drive down a road, you always end up where that road goes.


Reverse engineer your life-- just like everything else

Since our destination (where we end up) is determined by the direction we head), doesn’t it make sense that we could decide where we want to end up and then build a map of how to get there? 

Couldn’t we “start at the end” and plot all the steps necessary in order to make it where we want to be?

The answer is, simply, “yes.” 

  • We do this when we go on vacations to destinations where we have never been. You type the address of where you are heading into Google maps (or into  that “map app” on your smartphone), you research the Internet to find restaurants and hotels in the area, and you begin plotting your course. You don’t just head in any direction- you head in the direction that takes you where you want to go. 
  • We do this “reverse engineering” thing whenever we move into a new house or apartment. I’ve you’ve ever moved, you looked ahead and decided which room in the new house you wanted to function as the bedroom, which one would be the den, etc. Then, you packed your belongings in labelled boxes and routed them to their unique destinations.
  • You did this if you’ve been to college and plotted a future career. You might have known that you needed certain classes, a specific internship, or some sort of resume builder in order to land the job you wanted.

In all of the examples above, you didn’t simply pray harder or desire the change, you actually made plans and worked the plans towards the intended destination. 

You understood, even if you didn’t have the words to articulate it, that your destination is determined by your direction. And,  yes, you probably prayed & believed & had faith & looked on the bright side of things & had people cheering you on, too.

Here’s the oddity, though- We rarely do this with life-as-a-whole even though the same principle is true:

  • If you are going to marry one kind of spouse, that eliminates a bunch of others. In other words, if you want a woman (or man) who has the same values as you, who desires to not fall to the same vices that have ensnared you before, then those facts alone eliminate masses of people. I was always shocked by how many women I meet that want a good man who will love them, who will work a job and support the family... but then went for one of the most rebellious guys at our rehabilitation center- who couldn't keep a job, who wouldn’t quit drugs, and who boasted 2-3 other girlfriends on the side. All of the wishing and wanting and desiring for a solid family life in the future would never create the desired future- partnering with this man was evidence of walking towards a radically different destination.
  • If you want your children to grow up in a certain way-- that affects "the road" now. That is, if you want them to be able to manage their home by keeping their house clean, keeping a chore schedule, and responding to others with honor and respect- you should train them in that way now.
  • If you want to spend your days working in a job that fulfills you calling rather than just provides you with a paycheck, you will likely need to be intentional about it. You will need to evaluate what jobs are available, determine what certifications you  need, and then act accordingly. Tim Ferris wrote a book about this, The 4-Hour Work Week. In that book he argues that you shouldn’t wait for retirement to enjoy life. Rather, you should intentionally look at opportunities to move from the daily grind into daily fulfillment now. If that is something you desire, you will have to be intentional.

And that’s the key… 


If we know where we want to go, we can always plan accordingly, and make sure we’re on the right road.


This video clip comes from The Next Best Step, a grace-based 12-step recovery resource. 

The concepts of “direction and intention” are also taught in the Advance Planner Workshop. 

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