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Where Does Your Life Path Lead?

your life path

In life, every path leads somewhere and we are all on a life path of some kind. So, the important question here is this – do you know where your life path is leading you?

All of us prefer to think that the life path we are currently on is leading us exactly where we want to go. But is that true, or is it just wishful thinking? And how can we know?

Life is a journey on a life path

In many ways life is like any other journey and the life path we choose is important. If you are going to drive from Los Angeles to New York, there is any number of ways to get there. You get to choose the path that’s right for you.

Maybe you’ll choose the scenic route because you want to relax and enjoy the trip. In this case it’s okay if it takes longer, getting there fast is not your primary concern. But what if you are on a tighter schedule? Then you might decide to take the most direct route. It’s not as pretty as the scenic route, but it will get you there a lot faster.

Each path will provide its own unique variety of experiences while still leading to the same destination. Some will be more enjoyable than others. So, with regard to a life path, the quality of the journey merits just as much consideration as the destination.

How do know which life path to choose?

If you were driving across the country, you would probably use a map to help you choose the right route. Why? Because having a map would allow you to consider all the different options. Once you understood your options you would be in a good position to make an informed choice.

Unless your life is completely unstructured, and you’re willing to go anywhere the wind blows, you will want to use a map of some kind to plot your life path, right? Now, I’d like to ask you two simple questions.

1. How important is your life path compared to a trip across country?
2. Do you have a map to guide you on your life path journey?

Doesn’t it seem ironic that we will take the time to carefully plan a relatively insignificant venture like a road trip, and fail to do the same when it comes to our life path?

Time frames and mile markers

On your drive from LA to New York, you would likely establish a time frame and some mile markers. You would choose specific destinations along the way and then figure out when you planned to arrive at those places (tentatively anyway).

You might even allow extra time for spontaneous detours or unforeseen events. But you would have some general guidelines so you could keep track of your progress. Have you done that with regard to your life path? Hoping you’re on the right life path is not the same as planning. How would you respond to the following?

1. If you haven’t taken the time figure it out your life path, can you really say you know where you’re going?
2. If you haven’t established mile markers along the way, how will you gauge your progress?
3. If you don’t have a timetable, then the cold hard truth is you are just wandering.

Nothing is carved in stone

I’m not suggesting that a life path should be so rigid that it doesn’t allow for adventure and discovery. That would be incredibly boring. The fact is, you can’t predict every detail of your life or allow for every possible circumstance. But that doesn’t eliminate the need for a plan.

Between LA and New York, you are liable to run into any number of unplanned events. You may decide to alter your plans along the way. Or you may decide to stay in one place an extra day or two, thus altering your time frame. But you still know where you’re going. Your overall goal has not changed and you are still moving in the right direction.

5 basic truths about  your life path journey

1. Planning ahead does not prevent the unfolding process. In fact, when you have a plan it encourages new possibilities to unfold before you. Opportunities will present themselves in accord with your established goals and actions.

2. Having a plan leads to increased freedom. Some people resist setting goals and timetables because they think it’s too restrictive. They feel that it interferes with their freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Going nowhere is the opposite of freedom. It’s just the illusion of freedom.

3. Knowing where you are going gives you a sense of purpose. Having a purpose builds your self-esteem and confidence. Not knowing where you are going amounts to purposelessness. It’s a lost and powerless feeling.

4. Success does not happen by accident. This goes for businesses, relationships, personal growth, and anything else worth having. You are not going to win the lottery and live happily ever after. It’s just not going to happen!

5. Reality is your friend. Taking responsibility for your own life path frees you of a huge burden. Facing facts and working with current realities is much more productive than wishing things were different. Hiding from reality just encourages procrastination.

Now What?

Decide where you want to go and how you are going to get there. Choose to make life happen instead of just letting it happen to you. Identify areas where you have been procrastinating and figure out why. Make a plan, establish mile markers and a timetable, then take action and follow through.

If you run into roadblocks find a way around or over them and keep moving. If your life path doesn’t seem to be leading where you want to go then, choose a different path. Life is a journey and there is absolutely no reason to spend it going around in circles.

Do you think it’s important to define your life path?
Did any particular point in this article resonate with you?
The lines are open!

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35 Comments

  1. Marko August 27, 2010 Reply

    An interesting metaphor for the driving across the country…

    As for me personally, I think that planning is important, in fact essential if I want to achieve my intentions. Of course, it is important not to fall in love with the planning, it could create unnecessary frustration, or over-analyzing the situation…

    I think I need a certain dose of planning and a certain dose of spontaneity. Sometimes I am blocked by too much planning, sometimes with too much rashness, so I try to maintain a reasonable boundary between the two. ;)

    • Jonathan August 28, 2010 Reply

      Hi Marko, I love how you pointed that too much planning and over analyzing can be just as bad as no planning at all. Certainly, balance is the key here.

  2. Stephen August 27, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, this was a nicely balanced article and something I’m currently struggling with. When I was younger I wanted to to take the fastest route to get wherever I was going and forget the scenic route. I think often times being too focused on a goal made me not notice what was happening – how the world was unfolding around me and what that meant to me.

    Now I’m much more likely to want the scenic route. I’m trying to figure out if it is OK just to let the scenery unfold and take me where it may or if that will cause me to end up going in circles as you suggest. I’m not sure I’ve decided yet. Maybe there is no answer and maybe it just depends upon the person.

    • Jonathan August 28, 2010 Reply

      Hi Stephen, I think there is a time and place for both. Sometimes we just want to get to the end of whatever (job, project, chore, etc.) and the quicker the better. Other experiences are meant to be savored with full awareness and presence. It’s completely up to us to choose when and where to each.

  3. Dia August 27, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    You are exactly right that success doesn’t happen by accident. We have to work on everything we want wheather it is relationships, goals, etc…Also, we should always take responsibility for our actions. Many people unfortunately don’t and blame everything on life and others. Thanks for sharing Jonathan

    • Jonathan August 28, 2010 Reply

      Hey Dia, I am a big believer in taking responsibility. Blame is a dead end road.

  4. Lance August 27, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan,
    So well presented here!! Your example of the journey across the country is so fitting to the journey we are on with our lives.

    I have certainly wandered for part of my journey, and I have also made plans, and then altered them later on. What I’m finding today is that this all has much more meaning for me. And in that – I am currently working with a life coach – one that I felt deeply good about going in – to help to refine even further this journey that I’m on….

    So, your words today touch directly upon that – and upon the good that comes from a service like this (or other methods of planning that journey out a bit more).

    Great stuff!!

    • Jonathan August 28, 2010 Reply

      Hi Lance, I think that planning, altering plans and wandering are all valuable. The important thing is to do so with full awareness and by choice. A journey usually comes with a wide variety of experiences and that’s the way I like it.

      PS. After your comment on my previous post I have dubbed you Mr. Happy Maker. Can you live with that?

  5. Sandra Lee August 27, 2010 Reply

    Absolutely! As you point out – one’s life is so much more important than a road trip! It’s incredibly important to map it out.

    The point that resonates for me is the fact that success – however you define that for yourself – does not happen by accident!

    • Jonathan August 28, 2010 Reply

      Hi Sandra, many people have spent their life waiting for success to just happen. For most it never did. I like the thought that there are 3 different kind of people in the world: Those who wish something would happen; those who make something happen; and those who wonder what happened.

  6. Nea August 27, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan. This is definitely one of those posts that makes you think. I’ve been struggling to find the middle ground on this one. In my youth I was such a perfectionist–I did nothing without a plan. As I got older, I was forced to accept unplanned circumstances.

    It hit me like a ton of bricks when I had to learn to think and act quick. Now, I struggle to strike a balance between planning everything and being prepared for anything. Just thinking it through is a journey in itself.

    • Jonathan August 28, 2010 Reply

      Hi Nea, love your concluding sentence! Keep in mind that there is really no middle of the road approach that fits every situation. The balance comes in choosing which approach is best for each phase of each situation. I’d say planned spontaneity but that’s too much of an oxymoron.

  7. Chris August 28, 2010 Reply

    I really resonate with your affirmation that “having a plan” doesn’t mean you are rigid and devoid of passion. In my own experience, having that plan has given me more control… it’s empowering… it connects me with the project and help me to increase the passion I have!

    • Jonathan August 28, 2010 Reply

      Wow Chris, that was really expressed nicely. I feel the same way.

  8. Frank August 28, 2010 Reply

    My goodness, this post if full of some much inspiration and insight. Your life is a journey and should be planned as such. The closing of this post is what impacted me the most. The part about roadblocks and working your way around them. With the vocabulary you used it makes me think of desperately doing whatever is necessary to get by. You said, ” find a way to work your way around them or over them.”

    This was an eye opening, attention grabbing, and potentially life changing post.

    Thank you Jonathan

    • Jonathan August 28, 2010 Reply

      Thanks Frank, I am so glad you enjoyed it. We all have untapped resources that we can call on to overcome challenges. The more we use them the more resourceful we become.

  9. Farnoosh August 28, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan, scenic route or the fast way there? Do I have to choose? I have been a super organized planner all my life but my destination just changed. You heard that story the difference between leaders and managers by S. Covey? Managers who are told to find their way home from the forest are so busy planning the route that they don’t even check to see if they are in the right forest! It takes a leader to tell them whether the big picture is the right one before solving the problem of getting from A to B. And that’s my very vague point – I think I changed forests along the way :)))! So a new path, a new way and YES I have a feeling I know where it is taking me :)!

    • Jonathan August 28, 2010 Reply

      Hello Farnoosh, no, you don’t have to choose except in the moment. Both approaches are tools at your disposal, you get to pick which is right for any given aspect of any particular undertaking. Isn’t that cool?

      There is a time and place for every life skill we ever learn. Discernment helps us determine the appropriate time and place for each. As long as we are on a journey the scenery will keep changing and we will keep adapting to it and blazing new paths. Therein lies the beauty of this incredible adventure called life.

  10. Marion August 30, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan

    Your post made my think of times gone by before the advent of airplanes.

    You planned your journey but the journey itself took you through many interesting and amazing places. You met interesting people along the way. As you traveled you discovered more about your destination. Traveling was an education.

    Today we can jump on a plane and when the aircraft door opens we have arrived at our destination – having seen very little. I don’t want my life’s journey to be like that.

    Your post made me realize how much I am enjoying my journey.

    • Jonathan August 30, 2010 Reply

      Nice thought Marion, thinking that life should always be faster, faster, faster is like saying hurry up and get it over with.

      Granted, when I go to Kauai for vacation (my favorite place) I want to get there as fast as possible. But life actually is a journey rather than a destination. I am so glad that you are enjoying yours.

  11. jonathan figaro August 31, 2010 Reply

    Life is a journey, but that doesn’t mean action shouldn’t be taken. Everyday should be a successful day. Athis only occurs when you get things done and balance work with play. Do that and life will continue to sprinkle desire into your reality all day long!

    • Jonathan September 2, 2010 Reply

      Hey Jonathan, I think the word journey pretty much implies action, don’t you?

  12. Steve September 1, 2010 Reply

    I love analogies and metaphors for living life. And I love the picture of a journey for life, as well as the path I’m on. There are times to enjoy the scenery, and there are times to pull out the map and think about the destination. Both are important.

    • Jonathan September 2, 2010 Reply

      Hi Steve, this metaphor really has severed me well over the years. Sometimes I just stop and picture myself on this journey. Then I analyze what needs to happen at that particular juncture and it help me keep my perspective.

  13. Kirstine Vergara September 2, 2010 Reply

    How do we know if we’re choosing the right path? We don’t unless we’re already there. I don’t believe in planning you life every step of the way. I like surprises and sometimes the best things come unplanned. Though I have “should have moments”, I know that I wouldn’t be the kind of person that I am if things were always perfect because I carefully mapped everything out. Anyways, thanks for this post. It’s very insightful. :)

    • Jonathan September 2, 2010 Reply

      Hi Kirstine, I am all for spontaneity and unplanned adventure, but I still have an overall plan. Why? Because it provides direction and a structure. Some experiences are much more meaningful when we are completely open in our approach. But you wouldn’t try to build a house without a blueprint. As with all areas of life, balance is the key.

  14. John Duffield September 10, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan. Before commenting, I’d just like to put in a pitch for your “Sharing Life Skills” newsletter. I’d recommend it to anyone. Okay, so today I’d like to comment on “deciding what to do with our lives” with a real-life story. Here we go. I have an old friend who’s a big advocate of “life’s all about choices”. Matter of fact, his first career as CFO for a big public company made him an expert at making decisions. Trouble was, his heart wasn’t in it, so he decided to go into business for himself. He changed direction and became a tax consultant, advising people with big bucks how to keep them. Once more though, something didn’t seem to be right with that path, although it made him lots of money. Another decision was needed. This time Joe chose to become a college professor. He did what it took to go that way and quickly rose in the ranks. That’s where he is as we speak. But I spoke to Joe recently, and he said something I thought I should pass along. Deep down in Joe’s heart he knows he still isn’t on the right path. He told me so. At which I asked him this. “Joe” I said, “you’re probably the most expert guy I know at making decisions, so why don’t you just choose the path that’s right for you?”. Here’s Joe’s answer. “I wish I knew John” he said. “But there’s hundreds of neat paths I can see out there, and I can’t tell which one’s the right one”. “It’s like I was looking for a friend in a crowd at an airport or something”. “I know he’s there somewhere, but I just can’t recognize him amongst all the people”. My response to Joe was this. “What a fabulous analogy Joe” I said. “That person you’re looking for out there is YOU….and there’s a reason you can’t recognize yourself”. “There’s a reason you can choose paths ‘til the cows expire and never find the right one”. “So what’s wrong?” said Joe. “Ideas about who you are are trapped in your heart by fear” I said. “If you don’t learn how to dump that fear you’ll never be able to choose what to do with your life”. End of story. Ciao Jonathan.

  15. Rocket Bunny January 8, 2011 Reply

    I love spontaneity with a road map. Does that make sense? Haven’t done an “old school” road trip in about 3 years.
    My scheduled trips are usually well planned out because it is a returning location so flight and hotel reservations are at hand. Simple.
    I need more spontaneity in my life these days.

  16. Kevin Martin April 11, 2013 Reply

    One thing I definitely need to do is set more gauges for my success.

  17. Trevor April 12, 2013 Reply

    Great post! You’re right, we need to take a cold hard look at where we want to go in life and make sure we’re on the right path.

    And what you said about purpose rings true. It’s our compass . . . the needle that points the way. We’d best figure out how to read the thing if we ever hope to get where we want.

    Cheers!

  18. Shawn Ryan April 15, 2013 Reply

    I think the most important thing that I got out of this post is that you have to come up with a plan and purpose for your life. But, just because you make a plan and set those goals does not mean that you have to stick head fast to that plan. Life throws things at you and you have to be flexible and adjust your goals accordingly. Your life purpose is allowed to change at any given time based on the experiences that you have. Thanks for the post! I am setting up some of my more short term goals right now!

  19. Cornel April 16, 2013 Reply

    Hey Jonathan,

    I love “Having a plan leads to increased freedom”. I think this is the most wide-spread misconceptions, that a plan limits your freedom. Of course, I think it also depends on the way you use it. You need to be flexible and adapt to what life unfolds for you…

    Inspiring article! I’m first time here and I will certainly be back. :)

    Cheers,
    Cornel

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