It is an image familiar to all of us. The wayward traveler, slowly lumbering down the path, comes to an important marker in his journey. A crossroads. A place where the adventure splits. This way or that? One prong of the fork or the other? Whatever the wanderer chooses will have a great impact on his life.
It is a metaphor we can all relate to. The moment of choice. It feels as if the secret to life is learning how to navigate those crossroads. How to make the right decision when a difficult choice stares you in the face.
It hit me recently that I am always at a crossroads. If you were to ask me, at any given day of my life, I would tell you I am at a crossroads and I would feel as if it were an important and unique setting. It feels as if the crossroads we are at today are uniquely important. Trouble at work. Challenges at home. Career choices. Financial decisions. The truth is we are always at a crossroads. Every decision is a crossroad. Which makes knowing how to navigate the intersection that much more important.
Values and Vision
We talk a lot on this blog about the importance of values and vision. If every choice we make is a crossroads, the maze of life is complicated and unrelenting. We can so easily get lost. We like the idea that we can trace our struggles back to one huge decision (one specific crossroad). Sometimes this is true, but the reality is that being lost is often the result of a thousand decisions, not just one. Even after one bad decision, we can quickly right the ship if we make a few good choices in the aftermath. If you miss a right turn, three quick lefts will get you back on track.
But the biggest problem is we don’t know what is right. We have no compass for the navigation. We get to each crossroad, day after day, and take it at face value. We make choices based on how we feel that day or what articles we’ve read recently or what the throngs of people ahead of us are doing. No wonder we get lost so easily. We don’t really know how to make a choice.Naming our vision is vital. It gives us a mission. Purpose. We can make a decision based on which path takes us towards our vision.
We teach There-Here-Path to people and organizations all the time. It is incredible how often people get the order backward when first talking with us (they always start by calling the tool “Here-There-Path”). We have to correct them a few times. They’ve heard us say the order and even explain why. But our factory setting in this culture is to focus on the here and now, to fix the problems of today. We start with the Freudian slip of Here first because that is what we are focused on. Focusing on our Here allows us to make inconsistent decisions. The crossroads is about treating symptoms, wavering emotions, and the like.
Vision and values tells us what is important to us. Lastingly important. If we want to navigate the crossroads, we have to carry a compass. The things we want in life are big and complicated. We need to name them in order to ensure our day-to-day grinding moves us in the proper direction.
Everyone is searching for meaning. Yet we approach the crossroads with trepidation. We are afraid to make a mistake. More afraid than we are inspired to make the right choice. And our fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Understanding (and accepting consequences), taking ownership of our choices, and stewarding our opportunities rather than running from them are key to navigating the crossroads. We are weak discerners. We need the practice. Thankfully life is full of opportunities to hone our skill. We will fail and we will make progress. But we must keep trying, honestly and truly.
Making intentional choices is about taking ownership of your journey. You are the wanderer. Your journey is yours and yours alone. There are decisions you need to make. Every day is a crossroad. Have the courage to own your decision.