Which Path Will You Choose?
This piece was originally published on Heather’s blog site. For more from Heather, check out her work here.
“I have to finish this program I started. It is a really good program. I was supposed to go on a trip surfing down the east coast and all the way to Panama, but then this program made sense. I broke up with my boyfriend and now I didn’t do the trip.”
“I was enjoying my coffee and reading emails when I got the text. My staff person was sick and now I have to go in early or find someone to cover. So much for my relaxing morning with a hike and getting a chance to write my blog.”
Write your own story. There are always the big ways that life throws us a curve ball. And there are the day to day ways. Some put an end to a marriage, a job, an amazing trip of a lifetime and some put an end to the plan for the next couple of hours. After a while so many things can become disruptive that we give up on the hiking and writing. We become more like a participant or someone sitting on the sidelines of our lives that leaders in our lives.
Fulfillment will not happen from the sidelines or following someone else’s agenda. Fulfillment only happens when we choose that option and are willing to take the necessary actions to allow ourselves the time we need to live an inspired life. The big surf trip, climb trip or new business project only happens when you choose that it is going to happen…. even when everything seems to be working against you.
Usually there is something that drives us to following the thoughts that we have to make the choices we make. That drive can be supportive of living an inspired life, or it can drive us to a life of “should” and “have to,” following a path that is less inspired, but a life that fills a different desire. There is nothing wrong with choosing a grad school program over a surf trip. Both will just take the surfer in two different directions. One may bring more fulfillment than the other and the job we have is to always determine which path is going to take us in the most fulfilling and inspired direction.
How does one know which path to choose?
Ask yourself this question first; if I had everything I needed, all the resources, the support, the freedom of time, what would I want to be doing? What would be inspiring me everyday? How would I be living? Just imagine the answer. Just allow images to come to mind. See yourself in the future, notice where you are, who you are with and what you are doing. It is super important that you do not think this answer, rather you see or hear or feel it. If imagining is challenging, you can begin to draw the answer, sketch or to pull out magazines, cut out pictures and place them on paper, like a vision board. Just start with the feeling you want to feel.
Most of us don’t take time to envision the future we desire therefore we get the vision we have of our lives today repeated over and over again. When we have those big life disrupters we are often forced to think differently and then we may change. Change is challenging because our mind likes the known outcomes. The familiar makes us feel safe. But this can lead to a very uninspired life.
We also usually have a familiar idea of how we should be, who we should be with various people in our lives, including ourselves. It is a storyline that goes something like; you should be married by the time you are thirty-five years old. Perhaps the story is more; you are responsible if something goes wrong. Wrong could be someone around you is unhappy. These thoughts can be creating a desire that is keeping you from the future you imagine for yourself. The desire to make sure everything goes right or be married by the time you are in your thirties, can certainly be a disrupter to a desire to go on a surf trip if a parent wants you to stay, get a good job and perhaps have a family.
Look at what this desire is and identify the power it has. Consider these things, taking time to write a quick answer. What areas of my life are inspiring me? How am I showing up that is the way I want to be and how am I showing up in a way that I regret? What do I want to change in my day to day? What do I want above all else? What am I getting out of this life I am currently living?
When you have considered each of those questions write your want statement — I want my family to love me. Or I want a sense of security, safety. Maybe, I want to feel like I fit in. This exercise is an adaption from the work of Rod Stryker in his book The Four Desires. If you want a more complete approach, the book and The Four Desire workbook are excellent tools.
Once you have identified this want or desire, list the things you are doing in your life that in order to achieve this desire. List anything that is helpful to achieving the desire, regardless of whether it seems healthy. For example: I want a sense of security so I have lived in the same house for the last decade even though it is expensive and too large for just me and it feels lonely. I shop at the same grocery store every week. I have a rigid schedule each day. I have trouble saying no to my boss. I have not left my job even though it does not give me the satisfaction that I want. I have not dated in a few years.
It is important here not to beat yourself up. The goal is not to make you feel bad about yourself, rather to identify where you want to start to consider other actions. Remember this… you don’t need to have it perfectly answered, you just need to be aware of when you are acting from this place of fear. When you are compromising your authenticity, you are trying to fulfill a desire that is not taking you where you will achieve true fulfillment.
Through the course of today, where will you operate from a place of fear? And Where will you operate from a place of courage and curiosity?
Heather D Reynolds
Climber, Adventurer, Yogini, Kinesiologist, Author, Teacher