My husband and I recently took a long hike in the desert of Southern Utah. The trail crossed long stretches of rough, red slickrock on which footsteps were impossible to follow. Instead, the trail was marked with cairns, small stacks of rocks that were placed at regular intervals to indicate the direction we needed to take.
Over the many miles of the hike, I came to trust the cairns and the guidance they offered. I relaxed whenever I saw them. I knew that I was on the right path and that I would eventually be led where I wanted to go.
Life is often like a trail on which our pathway is dubiously marked. We ask ourselves, “Where should I go to college?” “Should I end this relationship?” Or “Can I afford to buy this home?”
Sometimes, we’re at a predictable crossroad such as the loss of a job, the death of a spouse or impending retirement, where our futures are particularly unclear. Our lives are thrown into a temporary tailspin. Nothing seems sure or clear cut.
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At other times, we find ourselves second guessing if the course we’ve selected is actually the right one. Perhaps we feel stifled in our job. Or we grapple with the tedium of being out of work.
Whatever the situation, we’re uncertain. We experience unease, discontentment. We’re not sure what to do.
Of course, our personal pathways are never 100 percent predictable. There are inevitable curve balls and glitches we must adapt to on a regular basis. No matter how cozy our current lifestyle, another tempest is always brewing in the wings.
It’s our ability to right ourselves after these expected maelstroms that determines our ultimate success and happiness. It’s not what happens to us as we travel along our individual interstates. It’s how we handle the psychological fender benders and blowouts that occur along the way.
Still, it’s nice to know where we’re headed. It’s good to have a map of sorts. Even if that roadmap must be routinely revised and updated, it’s useful to consult now and again.
I’m a firm believer that we all know which direction we’re headed. Deep down we understand what we want and how to achieve it. We may talk ourselves out of the right course. Or we allow others to dissuade us from a path that fits us like our favorite driving mocs. But that inner GPS is always working. We have to trust it will get us to the end.
Tips for reading the signs along the way
Wondering if your life’s on the right track? Ask yourself the following questions:
Does this course feel right to me?
Is this the right time in my life to pursue this path?
Do the significant people in my life approve of my decision?
Does this activity promote my personal independence?
Do I personally benefit from this activity?
Am I assisting my immediate family members with my behavior?
Does this path enhance my community?
If you answered yes to at least four of these questions, then you’re undoubtedly on the right road. Follow your intuition to arrive at your ultimate destination. If you realized you answered no to most of these questions, then a U-turn may be in your future. Consider these navigational strategies to plot a new course for yourself:
Get calm. Take some deep breaths. Then tap into your personal pilot. It understands your deepest desires and has an uncanny ability to help you make the right decisions. Listen closely to what it tells you.
Seek advice from experts and family. If you want to make some changes, talk to others in the know. Listen to their suggestions. They’re a valuable source of info that can help you make the best choice.
Do your homework. Arm yourself with the relevant research that will help you say yea or nay.
Make a decision. Ultimately, you’ll need to choose a direction. Even doing nothing is making a decision.
Change your course if necessary. If you’ve made a wrong turn, alter your bearings. It’s never too late to set a new course. After all, it’s your road you’re traveling.