More of the same usually gives you more of the same. - Price Pritchett
In his little book called You2, Price Pritchett tells an unforgettable story about a fly. The story took place at a peaceful little inn about an hour out of Toronto. It was just after lunch on a late July day when he noticed "The desperate sounds of a life-or-death struggle going on a short distance from where he was sitting."
There against a windowpane was a little fly using up the last of its life's energy trying to fly through the glass. The strategy was obvious - try harder.
Unfortunately, it was not working.
In fact, that fly had no chance of survival. The very struggle was part of the trap. No fly could be strong enough to break through the glass. The fly's whole life was consumed by that quest.
As Pritchett says in the story, "This fly is doomed. It will die on the windowsill."
When I read this story the first time I was pulled into the drama. What really sobered me was what followed. "Across the room, 10 steps away, the door is open. Ten seconds of flying time and this small creature could reach the outside world it seeks. With only a fraction of the effort now being wasted, it could be freed of this self-imposed trap. The breakthrough possibility is there. It would be so easy."
Try harder. How often have we gritted out teeth, clenched our fists, taken a deep breath and genuinely tried harder only to discover "More of the same usually just gives you more of the same."
In Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he speaks of "The Power of a Paradigm." He illustrates his point by suggesting that in an attempt to drive in Chicago to a specific destination there is a printing error and your map labeled "Chicago" is actually a map of "Detroit."
He suggests you might work on your behavior - try harder, be more diligent or even double your speed but your efforts would simply get you to the wrong place faster.
He also suggests you might work on your attitude - you could think more positively. You would still be lost but perhaps you wouldn't care.
Covey's point ... you'd still be lost not because of behavior or attitude but because you had the wrong map.
I recently traveled to Portland, Maine. My trip from our house to the airport is very familiar. I've made it over and over. For the first few times I needed a map but now it is so familiar, I hardly even think about it.
When I arrived in Maine, however, I really needed directions...from the airport to the hotel; from the hotel to the church; from the church to the hotel; from the hotel to the District Office; from the District Office to the conference center; from the conference center to the airport.
My directional solution was "Mapquest." On a clear printout one can find the distance, total estimated time, signs which go from "Start" to "End." An "800" number is even available, if needed.
Unfortunately life does not have "Mapquest" where we type in our location today and where we want to be in the future and then "poof," printout appears with a neat, step-by-step plan.
Whatever we do, let's not die on the windowsill. Perhaps, a door is open just 10 feet away. Back up. Take a breath. Look around and...
Think about it.
Editor's note: Dr. Meyer is president of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA. Responses can be mailed to email@example.com.