As I was exploring the Eastern Walkway today, a walking path (we call them hikes in America) that I haven’t ever explored, I found myself at a junction where the path had an extra trail attached to it that I didn’t expect to see. I could clearly see the path that was the official one, and yet I paused. Triggers from my life up to this point told me to continue down the path that I knew was “correct”, yet… my mind seemingly tried to race down the odd path to the left wondering what it could possibly hold. My mind suddenly teamed with the puzzled of determining, which path is the “right” path.
In the past few years, I have noticed a growing trend in my life: indecision. I’ve felt happy to have so many opportunities in my life and yet as time has gone on, my ability to make choices has become clouded by the desire to make the “right” choice. I’ve struggled more and more to determine what I believe the “right” path is even as I’ve had more information and resources to make those choices with.
Slowly though, a new reality has begun to shape it’s way into my life and dissolve indecision. Feeling pressure to choose the “right” thing to have, or the right way to do or be comes from feeling like you have to be something, do something or having something you aren’t or don’t already have. So many of these feelings come from a terribly insidious place that happens to be a major focus every January. GOALS.
Yep, I said it. As a perennial goal lover and goal struggler, I have come to realize that having goals, while at times still helpful, overshadows a more important piece of ourselves: our values. For this, let me take you back to the hike.
As I looked at the paths, I realized that I didn’t know which path was “right” (whatever that means), so I started down the path less traveled, which has been somewhat of a trend in my life. As I walked down the path and found myself not where I expected to be, I explored and found yet more forks in the path and made more choices. After making several of these choices always choosing the path that seemed more interesting, I came to realize something simple yet profound.
I value CURIOSITY.
What I was following wasn’t some arbitrary selection, but rather a series of choices based on my valuing curiosity and exploring new things for the sake of new experiences. Having been so focused on goals, I’ve lost sight of the things that really drive me, that motivate me, that make me tick. In this moment of exploration, I came to realize that in walking the walkway I didn’t have a goal guiding, or rather distracting, me and it didn’t matter what path I took as I was out walking, thinking and exploring for the sake of being curious. Without a goal, I was free to explore my values and determine that when faced with a choice, I love being curious and trying something new.
Old me would have been paralyzed by the various iterations of consequence related to these choices yet this journey brought me to another ironic realization. After walking and picking paths through the bush (jungle or forest brush) based on curiosity, I found that all of the paths took me back to a single location.
Often in life we get caught up in the minutia of picking what happens in our life and believing that we’re making substantial changes to the outcome of our lives, even though we can’t see down the paths that we didn’t take. Who is to say that as we flow through the current of the river of life that ultimately we don’t wind up in the same place via different means. Does it matter which of the many paths we take as long as we’re headed in the direction of our values?
The beauty of finding your values is that as you live by those values you can choose to make choices, not based on trying to make the “right” choice, but by knowing what you value and simply making choices that support those values. There’s a freedom and a simplistic beauty in not striving for things, but simply living; living true to your values, a fulfilling journey which never ends.