Not long ago I met with a young woman who is struggling to decide between staying in college or pursuing a less traditional path. As she talked with me I could hear my own words at that age coming from her. Phrases like “There is so much more out there, I just want to travel,” struck a personal chord with me.
I wasn’t quite sure what to say to her. I didn’t even know what I would say to myself at that age. In fact, I’m still sitting with some of the exact same questions and dilemmas I was then.
But there is one lesson that has morphed my perspective and approach to life, which I’ve learned from my tendency to be so rigid and obsessed with making the “right” decisions.
What I’ve realized is that the decisions you make aren’t nearly as important as your ability to remain elastic through the rigidity of your choices and to learn and grow through the aftermath. Life is similar to a maze, with many dead ends that require you to turn around and discover a new opening.
We tend to place so much emphasis on the center of the maze, believing it’s the destination. We get frustrated by the dead ends and feel increasingly defeated by them, which makes us bypass the journey itself and the immense amount of lessons and insights along the way.
I’ve come to realize that what I really wanted to say to her now is something I desperately need to be reminded of now, which is thatyour decisions aren't as important as you might think. Despite how heavy it feels in the moment, the decision is not what’s important. You’ll make decisions you’re happy with; you’ll make ones you’re not. And oftentimes decisions will be made for you by unexpected life situations.
The power of our lives isn’t in the decisions we make but in the moments of awareness and growth between them. It’s in our acceptance of situations and our willingness to appreciate what grows from the seeds we’ve planted. It’s in our ability to accept the dead ends with integrity and move in another direction with curiosity—not just in the youthful years of our lives but in every moment leading to our final days.
There is no right equation, no solution to solve, no final destination or permanent answers to discover. There is only the journey and the immense amount of lessons, challenges, and joys that fill the spaces between.