AP NEWS

The two paths of life

April 16, 2019

Recently I came across the following quote. It read, “I am not a mapmaker, I am a traveler.” The quote made me stop and think about a few things relating to life’s journey and the paths we choose.

As I reflected on the quote, I remembered the line from Led Zeppelin’s song, “Stairway to Heaven.” “There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” Which then led me to ponder Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

The countless moments of our lives shape and define us. By themselves, these moments are neither good nor bad. What makes them good or bad is the meaning we assign to them. Take a wedding party for example. For someone newly in love, a wedding represents excitement and opportunity. Yet, for someone who recently broke up, it represents love lost and pain.

This assigning of value is an important part of our lives, as it is a reflection of who we are. Our behavior is nothing more than a reflection of who we are and how we perceive ourselves. Thus the values we assign things to represent our innermost thoughts.

With that thought in mind, I began to wonder what part of an individual keeps them from succeeding. Success can and should be defined by the individual, not society. What one may consider a success, another may consider a failure. This is important to remember as we travel down life’s path, listening to the voices in our head.

Inherently, the voices in our head trying to protect us from harm. This natural act creates one of our greatest stumbling blocks. The trick is trying to determine what part of one’s belief system stands in the way. Success, however you define it, lies on the other side of knowing what that is.

True success comes from understanding what is holding you back and dealing with it. To discover what is holding one back requires an understanding of what successful behaviors look like. Once understood, they can be compared with current behaviors to discover what needs to change.

A mental shift I have found helpful in this process is to change the way I approach things. For example, if I were to set a goal to run a marathon, I would shift my thinking about training. Mentally, I wouldn’t train so I could run a marathon.

I would train because I am a runner and runners run marathons. That way, I become the behavior I need. The point isn’t to become a marathoner; it is to become a runner. Then I can run whatever race I choose because I enjoy racing and they are measuring sticks of progress.

This subtle shift in thinking helps provide my mind with evidence of what I believe. If I only run one marathon a year, my mind will not believe I am a runner capable of running marathons. However, if I run every day, I provide a lot of evidence to my brain that I am a runner. Pretty soon, I have become what I thought I was because I have the evidence to prove it.

Often people think meaningful change requires a radical shift in behavior. For the majority of people and behaviors, that is flawed thinking. Small changes done repeatedly over time will result in great changes.

The best way to change who you are is to change what you do. This is accomplished through small processes that are easy to repeat and maintain. To paraphrase Gandhi, be the change you wish to be. For many, that is the road less traveled. For some, that has made all the difference in their lives.

Jeff Hough is a business author, blogger and speaker in Pocatello.