I was reflecting on the Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken” and was thinking about all the forks and decisions we make in the road of our lives. As he mentioned in the poem, either of the paths could change the course of his life, at least when viewed through the filters of time. Yet neither path was, at the time he was standing there deciding, ‘better’ or ‘worse’ in his opinion… hmmm.
I’ve been considering two paths for my newsletter – both approaches different, but neither ostensibly better nor worse. This newsletter is one path that I’ve been taking for over 13 years – a subject viewed through the lens of the subconscious, told in story form (read, long version). Another path is a far more ‘short and sweet’ version of the newsletter, with tips, suggestions, quotes, learning suggestions all in mini-paragraph form. I believe both may be valuable yet I don’t want to overload you each month, so I’ll send out a ‘test’ version of the new format (mid-month) for January and February – if you like it (or not), please let me know, so I can give you the most useful information for your life and work.
So, now that I’ve been waffling from one path to another, I’ll get back on the road and view this classic (yet oft misquoted) poem through the eyes and steps of the subconscious mind and see how it may support you in your choices and journey into this new year and beyond. The poem is written at the end of the article.
One of the definitions of ‘resolution’ is a firm decision to do or not to do something. However, the interpretation of new year’s resolutions tends to be doing the opposite of the way things were done last year – so do something you didn’t do, or not do something that you did before. I absolutely support people in making changes in their lives that aren’t working, yet the artificial ‘reason’ of a new number on the calendar sometimes pales as an incentive to follow through with the resource-consuming shift in directions.
Robert Frost considered both paths, and while different, equally trodden with different yet equivalent attributes, and then simply chose one. Was it the ‘best’ choice? Who’s to say? Yet the hiker made a decision rather than endlessly ruminating the choice which would leave him immobilized and fixed where he was now. Sometimes it feels like making a decision may carry us down the ‘wrong’ path and so we put off making a choice out of fear. With the adaptability of the mind and the ingenuity of humans as a whole (and you significantly above the curve), a decision doesn’t need to be absolute, and often gives us feedback that we can use to reorient our direction and realign our resources in the move forward.
So if similar outcomes are hard, then a resolution to stop or start something that serves us better should be easier, right? Not necessarily. Because, just like the paths, we can’t necessarily walk two roads at once. We can’t eat all the chocolate cake we want and expect to lose the weight we’re aiming for. We can’t be sitting, watching soap operas, while we’re playing in the park with our kids – you get the picture.
We sometimes have to lose something to gain something. So I often suggest that a resolution is accompanied by the benefits and losses that may be associated with it. Benefits mean what you’ll get from a change – feel or look better, closer relationships, more energy, greater relaxation/sleep… And losses mean looking at what you might not be able to have, be or do anymore – whether they are real or perceived. Once you take a closer look at these areas, you’ll get a clearer picture of what may lie farther along the road – you can focus your expectations to incorporate the plusses and minuses better. Hypnosis is great at clearing the challenges, and focusing on the advantages to get where you need to go, but this is a good start!
Take backs on the path (or setbacks, stumbles and one foot in front of the other)
So you made a decision, you picked a path. Fantastic. What if it’s the wrong one? I’ve done this quite a bit in my life and I believe, as an active participant in life, it’s a natural consequence of living. If we had all the information on the future with extreme clarity, we would probably minimize these missteps, but we don’t. We are often, if not always, working with some limited or incomplete inputs, and are making the best decision based on our awareness at the time. Sure, experience and wisdom can help us a bit, but with partial details, we are doing the best we can with what we’ve got. That makes errors and mistakes of this kind pardonable as long as we learn from it. However, we’re sometimes so busy berating ourselves for making a mistake that we lose the lesson and do the same thing over again!
While we may never be able to ‘step into the same river twice’, we are much more adaptable than we may think. We can shift our route or direction if our choices are not the best. While it may not be exactly the same as if we had started on the other path, our ability to forgive our incorrect choices and step away might prevent us from continuing on the wrong path, criticizing and scolding ourselves along the way.
Yet what if you’ve got on the right path for you and you stumble off it? You gain a pound or kilo instead of losing 10. You didn’t achieve what you wanted when you wanted. While it may feel that you are way off track, but you’re just a couple steps away from getting back on.
There’s a saying, “when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging” and for moving forward with changes, it seems to be good advice. I know many people give up on themselves when they fall short, but their striving and missing a challenging mark is still more than doing nothing at all. “To err is human, to forgive divine” may be the guiding principle in this situation. This moment is a great time to start or restart the journey of change you want and need. Be gentle with our human foibles and set yourself back on the path (even if it feels you’ve taken two steps backwards).
Our ability to experience failure gives us more information and a better idea of what doesn’t work for us, so we can recalculate, redirect, and succeed even more with that additional information and experience.
Looking at your journey through another’s eyes (theirs and yours)
I love hearing about people’s journeys – they can be so fascinating. The amazing things that my parents have done, my friends and family – they read better than a travelogue or an adventure novel.
I listen to the accomplishments and overcoming of obstacles in my clients’ lives and wonder at their power and fortitude. Yet many of them think of their lives as ‘less than’ others. They see their difficult periods as failures rather than heroic ventures. They see their deeds and triumphs as ‘no big deal’. They colour their lives more bleakly than the look, viewed from my perspective, and I am often surprised that they can’t recall their achievements when recounting their tale.
Normal tends to be forgettable as it is ordinary, not ‘novel’ which the mind becomes immediately aware of. It’s like people who live next to a railway track or airport that fail to notice the trains and planes that pass by with regularity – they are just sidelined by the mind. Some of the most successful people I know fail to give themselves credit for the interesting and successful lives they have created. While ‘sitting on your laurels’ may stop us from challenging ourselves which may limit expansion or growth, feeling a sense of efficacy can often spur us into action, based on the idea that we seem to be able to handle what we’re doing.
Imagine for a moment that you’re looking at your life through the eyes of someone who loves or cares for you, or through the eyes of someone who is hearing your story for the first time, who is open to being impressed. Your story may seem very different and more optimistic than you’ve viewed it before.
Even Frost, in his poem, is projecting through the years and looking at his simple choice in a positive light – even as the two paths before him were similarly walked, his future self has attributed his life to that ‘ one less traveled by’ and has positively spun that choice into one that ‘has made all the difference’. We may be able to take a page from his book in looking at our options as necessary to creating the valuable and original life we now lead.
Oh, but what a view!
I look back at the roads I’ve travelled, and look forward to the future path I can see, and the ones beyond that I can only imagine, and think how lucky I am to be able to walk this route on my own and surrounded by others I care about. Sometimes we’re so set on getting farther than we are that we forget to stop and look at the view, and to consider that we always have more than one choice of paths to follow.
Take a moment to look around you – the work or home that you have, the important people around you, the activities in which you participate, the opportunities that are just around the corner. I’m glossing over my over packed desk (full of new projects and products for 2016!) and see a life that is fortunate and full. And the only time it isn’t is when I’m looking at the small stones on the road rather than the big picture that is my life.
If there are things that you’d like to do that you haven’t yet done, or patterns that you feel may lead you down a path you don’t want to follow, today is a day you can choose another way. Hypnosis can help and there are lots of ways to support yourself in grabbing onto new options and outlooks.
They say that even writing and telling someone about the change you want to make improves your chances of doing so – send me a note to [email protected] with your dreams and destinations and I’ll hold it with care – or find a friend who can be your gentle ‘accountability buddy’ as you take your first steps on a new path in your life.
Whatever road you take, enjoy this new year that will make all the difference!
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.