I saw a documentary in an IMAX theatre about an ambitious project that the Smithsonian Institute once undertook. They wanted to create a life-sized flying dinosaur, a replica of the famous pterodactyl. The hardest part for them was to figure out how this ancient bird was able to change direction in flight. They toyed with the idea of using the bird’s tail as a rudder. They also tried lowering the bird’s shoulder and rolling the wings to the right or left but nothing they tried ever worked. Finally, they found the answer. The pterodactyl changed direction just by turning its head. All the other body parts followed this simple action. The folks at the Smithsonian eventually did get their featherless pterodactyl to fly and it looked real enough to fool a lot of people.
I wasn’t surprised by their head turning discovery. It is one of the principles that they taught us in motorcycle school—where you look is where you go. When you want to make a turn on a cycle you just move your eyes and your head in that direction. It works extremely well. After some training, I was amazed that I could do a u-turn in a narrow alcove with a 750 lb. motorcycle (without having to put a foot down) simply by twisting my head all the way around and staring in the direction I wanted to end up. The bike came right along.
In class, they showed us that many accidents result from not understanding this basic principle. For instance, if you are riding a motorcycle and all of a sudden you see a fallen tree branch in your path, if you look at the branch, you will surely run over it. This happens to cyclists every day. They taught us to avoid such disasters by repeated yelling this other famous expression to us as we circled by, Look where you want to go—not where you want to crash! Good advice.
What does this have to do with relationships? Everything. One of the biggest difficulties couples face is their insistence on focusing on the problems that are right in front of them. They focus on them and then they crash into them and then they wonder what happened. What should they do instead? Deny their problems? No. They need to acknowledge what is before them and quickly make the adjustment that good motorcyclists make—start looking toward where they want to go.
There is something compelling and attractive about a vision. If you focus on and speak about how you want the relationship to be and how you want it to feel instead of bemoaning where it is and where it has been, you will move into that vision, leaving your problems at the side of the road. You’ll start feeling better in general and more hopeful about your chances for success in your relationship. Best of all, you will probably enroll your partner in going there with you. The next time you don’t like what is dead ahead of you in your relationship, shift your focus to how you’d like things to be. Soon you’ll be taking your relationship in the right direction. Where you look is where you go.