A possibility was born the day you were born

Lisa, a 36-year-old woman asks, “How do you find a direction in life? I’ve had several jobs and excelled at all. But after the death of my spouse, my life came to a standstill. I want to start the ball rolling again. At the risk of sounding repetitious, how do I find a direction in life?”

After getting this brief e-mail, I asked for more background information. Shortly later, I got a 6,833-word reply (12 pages). Lisa’s comprehensive response deserves much more than this 1,133-word article from me. In fact, she deserves a book. Ideally, one written by a woman who has experienced upheaval and dramatic ups and downs the way Lisa has. Also, the book should be pleasant to read and packed with practical advice offered by a leading expert. Fortunately, such a book exists.

So, Lisa, please check your library or bookstore for Ph.D. Barbara De Angelis’ latest book, “HOW DID I GET HERE? Finding Your Way to Renewed Hope and Happiness when Life and Love Take Unexpected Turns,” St. Martin’s Press, 2005. (Also check Dr. De Angelis’ web site: http://www.barbaradeangelis.com/. I’ve chosen this book specifically with you in mind and am confident that it will steer you, bright as you are, in the right direction. Good luck!

Now that I’ve offered advice that is specific to Lisa, I will devote the rest of the article to sharing ideas that are more general in scope and may be helpful for Lisa and others who are wondering how they can have direction in life.

Paraphrasing Marcus Solero, a possibility was born on the day of Lisa’s birth and it will live as long as she does. The same is true for you and me. We are exciting possibilities. We etch new paths in eternity by the lives we lead. Possibility means potential, but it also denotes uncertainty. That makes some people uncomfortable. They want to know their purpose in life with absolute certainty. But the truth is life is like a kaleidoscope. That is, it is a beautiful, ever-changing pattern. We cannot predict what it will look like from one moment to the next. That is nothing to fear, but something to rejoice in, for each rotation of the kaleidoscope and each step we take leads to a delightful surprise.

If you cannot find your path or direction, it’s simply because one’s path is created, not found. Here’s how Antonio Machado (1875 ~ 1939) expressed this idea, “Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.” The purpose of life, then, is not to find a path, but to create one. How do you create your life path, purpose, or direction? Well, start from where you are and understand that everything is already all right. To grasp this point, take a deep breath, slow down, and consider these words of Alexander Pope (1688 ~ 1744):

All nature is but art, unknown to thee; / All chance, direction, which thou canst not see; / All discord, harmony not understood; / All partial evil, universal good; / And spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite, / One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right (Essay on Man, Epistle i, Line 289).

The poets always have great lessons to teach. Here is Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 ~ 1895) commenting on starting from where you are, “The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.”

If you feel you are going nowhere, please understand that NO-WHERE is NOW-HERE. Live in the moment. Let the moment (NOW) tickle you with delight. Do what needs to be done NOW, and all your NOWs strung together will form your path.

When we think about our path or direction, we usually think about our job. However, we are not defined by our jobs, but by our principles. You see, it doesn’t matter if you are a cop, bus driver, cook, or plumber. What matters is what kind of cop, bus driver, cook, or plumber you are. That is, are you kindhearted, helpful, understanding, accepting, or honest? Your path, then, is not a particular occupation, but a set of principles you dedicate your life to. Once you have established these principles, you can take any job. A job is nothing more than an avenue to bring your principles to life. In other words, any job is the right job when your thoughts, feelings, and actions are right.

To create your path, decide what principles you wish to dedicate yourself to. Here are some examples: “I wish to lighten the burdens of others by spreading cheerfulness wherever I go. I wish to encourage, praise, and support others at every opportunity. I wish to make the world a better place by making myself a better person.” You get the idea. Use your own creativity and talent to come up with your own principles to live by. The reason many people are lost is because they are trying to decide what job to take instead of what principles to live by. Remember, happiness, success, and fulfillment don’t come from your job, but from adhering to your principles.

How do we create our principles (path)? We do so by stilling our mind and allowing our inner wisdom to speak to us. Psalms 32:8 explains: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Mahatma Gandhi (1869 ~1948) also explains, “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.”

So you see, Lisa, as Henri Frederic Amiel (1821 ~ 1881) wrote, “The best path through life is the highway.” By that he meant the HIGH way, the NOBLE way, the RIGHT way. Your life direction should be to move your life in the RIGHT direction. When you do that, everything else takes care of itself. As long as your head and heart go in the right direction, you won’t have to worry about your feet. After all, how can you get lost on a path that is straight (and narrow)?

I’ll end by quoting a great master, Buddha (568 ~ 488 BCE), “Following the Noble Path is like entering a dark room with a light in the hand; the darkness will all be cleared away, and the room will be filled with light.” May the path you follow light up your life and the lives of everyone you meet.