Lessons from a Plow Horse

Connor had begun to doubt herself. The past several months had destroyed what she had thought would be her future. A long-term relationship had ended with bitterness and regret. Her job performance was suffering. She had always been good at setting priorities and working through her task list, but she had begun to lose track of her obligations. Nothing seemed to excite her, and she had lost motivation.

She decided to get in her car and just drive without a plan for where she would go. She was traveling back roads when she saw a sign for fresh peaches. She loved peaches on her cereal, but the peaches you could get in a store were terrible. She decided to stop.

As it turned out, the peaches were part of a roadside fruit and vegetable stand run by an Amish family. Her spirits began to rise as she saw what was for sale. But even more, she was really intrigued by the Amish lifestyle. The children running the roadside stand introduced her to their parents.

The mother was in the kitchen canning vegetables for the winter. Connor asked if she could help and found out that she really enjoyed the experience of preserving the present for the future. There was real satisfaction in seeing row after row of canned fruit and vegetables in their basement fruit cellar.

Then she met with the father as he was plowing a field that had just been harvested. He was preparing it for the second season to be harvested in the fall. What intrigued Connor was the straightness of the rows. She had to ask, “What’s the secret to those straight rows?” The answer would be one that she would remember for the rest of her life.

“If you want to have a straight row, you can’t look back and you can’t focus on the ten feet in front of you. What you need to do is to select something far ahead and keep that firmly in your mind as you plow. The plow horse will do what you asked, but you have to know where you’re going. Looking back or looking just a few feet ahead won’t help you. Plow horses like direction, but they also don’t do well when you are constantly tugging on their reins.”

As Connor returned home, those lessons from the plow horse stuck in her mind. She was looking back too much and living a life of regret. She was task focused but missed out on where those tasks were taking her. She had not given much thought to how the present was shaping up for the future she wanted. She decided to make three promises to herself:

  1. Learn from the past but don’t keep living it.
  2. Use the present to prepare for the future.
  3. Always maintain a vision of what you want to be in your consciousness.

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“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” – Steve Jobs

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