Have you ever felt lost? Not because you don’t have navigation or because you lost your phone…I mean the type of lost where you are really not sure where you are heading in life? The big kind of lost. Perhaps a heavy question for October, but one on my mind. Maybe the beginning of a new month and season has me pondering larger directional questions or is it that the fall leaves are symbolic of a time for shedding the old and get ready for the new beginnings of spring? Either way, I have lost my way.
Like most, I have my daily routine and path that my phone has now memorized. Each morning I get into my car and my phone announces how many minutes it takes to get to the gym. Is my life really that predictable? Obviously, it is. I find myself wanting to drive the opposite direction, just to confuse the phone and to break from routine in search of a new destination. Yet, the problem with being lost is that the path is unclear. Would I recognize direction if it revealed itself?
One announcement too many from my phone and my subsequent angry reaction from repeating the daily grind startled even me. More than that, it clarified that it is time for a change and that my routine is no longer feeling great, but rather making me feel like a hamster on a wheel going nowhere. I began journaling in hopes that would bring some direction, purpose, or clarity. The result of that journaling? That I was clearly in a rut and feeling stuck.
Now sufficiently self diagnosed, my first step in attempting to get unstuck was to reach out to friends, share how I felt and get their feedback. While it felt great to share my feelings of frustration, it became obvious that the outside perception of my life did not clearly reflect my inner turmoil. The upside of sharing my position, however, was that one friend shared her view of my strengths and suggested that I think about writing a book, something that has been a long-standing bucket list item. What surprised me even more was that a few of my friends felt stuck as well. Ironically, I found myself giving them advice.
The first question I posed to my friend, a stay-at-home mom, looking to go back to work in some way to get out of her rut, was;
1. Why do you think you are in a rut? Her reply, not to dissimilar to my own, was her feeling of doing the same thing day after day. The never ending routine bred a lack of excitement about anything and gave her little to look forward too. She felt sad, depressed and even guilty because she knows she has “a nice life.” Author Lynn Robinson of Listen: Trusting Your Inner Voice in Times of Crisis says “Intuition is an infallible guide for letting you know when you need a change and also what direction to take. If you feel excited, interested or passionate about something that’s your intuition. Conversely, if you feel bored, uninterested and/or drained by something, that’s your intuition communicating change is needed”.
Next I asked my girlfriend:
2. What do you love to do in your spare time? If you could do anything, what would that be? Her answer was running. She used to be a marathon runner in her pre-mom days. She said it was her time to really think but she was in no shape now to run a marathon. What about running a 5k and setting a small goal, I suggested? A tiny step to begin to get momentum: following runners on social media, subscribing to running magazines, reaching out to old running friends for inspiration or to train, expanding her circle, changing her routine, all with literally the smallest stride forward and something that brings her joy. It may not be a career move or it could lead to doing something she loves for work?
3. As a nonprofit founder, I find time and again that when I help someone else I immediately feel better. Somehow my problems become smaller and when I volunteer it puts things in perspective that makes me feel fulfilled. A recent survey by United Health Group, says that 94% of people who volunteer have an enhanced sense of purpose. Additionally, it is an incredible way to incorporate your passions, so I suggested a few running and fitness related nonprofits to my girlfriend as a great place to start making a change to get out of her rut.
4. I am a huge fan of daydreaming. Physiologist use terms like visualization but it works. Visualizing what it is you want, can you see yourself running across the finish line? What does that look like, feel like, smell like? Author, Peg Streep of the book Mastering the Art of Quitting: Why it matters in Life, Love and Work calls it Mental Contrasting when you visualize your ideal future. In my friend’s case it was completing a marathon, in mine it was writing a book. The key is not only to think of the goal or direction but to think of the few roadblocks that need to be removed as well. Could I rearrange my day to schedule a few hours to write? Henriette Klauser, Ph.D. and author of the book Write It Down Make It Happen writes that “setting your intent, focusing on the outcome, being clear about what you want in life can make your dreams come true”. Her book is an incredible resource to help discover what you want and that goes along way in getting out of a rut and finding direction.
5. Yogi Berra said “ If you come to a fork in the road take it!” Sometimes getting lost and taking a new direction opens up an entirely new path. Still pondering all my wonderful advice to my friends and the thought of writing a book, while driving on the 110 freeway, I asked God for a sign, a direction, anything to give me some navigation through this rut and this is what I received….
Seriously? I grabbed the same phone that I cursed earlier, to snap the picture of the license plate in front of me that read TRST GOD. Wow! I have never asked for a sign and received such a quick reply. But before I even reached the second tunnel there was another sign…….literally.
Above the tunnel were the words PERSIST. Trust God and persist. I snapped away trying to process the fact that I was driving with navigation on, yet still feeling completely lost. More than that, I was trying to comprehend the fact that I had just asked for a sign and been sent two!
Just when you think you are lost and in a rut, the path slowly begins to reveal itself. Do I now know where I am heading? Not exactly, but somehow I have a profound peace knowing that I am going to persist in finding my way. This fall when the path continues to reveal itself, I will follow it wherever it may lead.