Do you remember the story of Hansel and Gretel?
In the beginning, there’s not enough food to go around because of a famine. People are starving, and they can only afford to feed the stronger family members. One night, the children overhear their parents talk about leaving them in the forest to fend for themselves.
Fortunately Hansel has a plan. He sneaks outside to collect a bunch of pebbles, placing them in his pocket before going to bed.
“What are you doing?” Gretel asks.
“You’ll see,” her brother responds.
The next morning, Hansel and Gretel are sent on an errand to collect firewood in the forest. Their parents reassure them they’ll get picked up when night falls. As they walk away from the house, Hansel secretly drops one pebble at a time until they are deep in the forest.
By night time, the wolves are howling and Gretel fears for their lives. They’re lost at this point, and the wolves’ yellow eyes are looking at them like they’re dinner.
“Let’s make a fire,” Hansel suggests.
Once the flames burst up, they see a strange line of dots glistening. It turns out the pebbles that Hansel dropped earlier are reflecting the light from the fire. The trail of pebbles provides a sense of direction, allowing Hansel and Gretel to find their way home.
In your own life, you’ve been leaving behind a trail of pebbles all along as well.
Do you ever catch yourself thinking, “I don’t know what to do with my life”?
And what do we do in response? We just go about performing mundane tasks day by day, thinking that maybe a fantastic idea will sprout out of the ground and give us a sense of direction.
Someday, we’ll just figure it all out.
Of course, this rarely happens.
And the worst part is, before we know it, years have gone by.
Instead, look for the pebbles in your life. Chances are, you’ll be able to find some things in your past experiences that provide direction for the future.
For example, maybe when you look back you notice that you spend a lot of free time looking at books on building design. Maybe architecture is a big interest in your life.
And no, it doesn’t mean you have to run off and suddenly become an architect. What it does mean is that this is something worth investigating. You could enroll in an introductory class on architecture, or talk to architects about their experiences. Why not do both?
If there’s something that you’re interested in, look into it more. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) jump something right away. Investigate a bit more into your past interests to see how far along you should follow them.
Your past behavior is a strong indicator for how you’ll act and respond to situations in the future. Over time, these tendencies come out over and over again.
It’s interesting how people can observe things about us that would never have occurred in our heads. They take notice of something and then might make a comment in passing:
When various people make comments like this, there’s something going on. Listen when this happens.
Looking forward, it seems difficult to figure out what we should be doing, or whether we’re making the right decisions. But when we pursue something that almost comes naturally, it almost seems blindingly obvious.
As Steve Jobs once said — “You can only connect the dots looking backward.”
In a world of choices, there are so many possibilities out there and we’re forced to choose. As a result, we find ourselves hopping from one thing to another.
Other times, external pressures or current trends cause us to make decisions that we normally wouldn’t have done. After all, if your friends are doing something, it’s easier to follow along right?
But if you look closely, you might find that there are some things, regardless of trends and external factors, that you find yourself gravitating towards.
Sometimes, we have interests or skills that we don’t even realize. Someone might say, “How’d you do that?”
And we might shrug, figuring that if we can do something, it must come easily to everyone else. If you have people come to you for help on something or are surprised that you can do something well, pay attention. You could learn something about yourself that everyone already knew.
What are the pebbles in your own life? Do they form a trail and lead you somewhere?
If you want to move closer to your goals, then check out my guide How to Get Anything You Want.
Enjoy the “not this, then that” strategy to overcoming setbacks!
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Originally published at medium.com