In Jordan Peterson’s book “Beyond Order, 12 More Rules for Life,” he lists rule number two as:
“Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.”
Peterson asks the question “who could you be, if you were everything you could conceivably be?” He makes the point that we are all compelled forward by things that inexplicably grip our attention. He likens these things to lamps along a dark path—part of our unconscious processes which serve to develop our spirits and bring us into the life we are meant to live. He writes: “You do not choose what interests you. It chooses you. Something manifests itself out of the darkness as compelling, as worth living for. Following that, something else moves us further down the road to the next meaningful thing, and so it goes. The adventure of our lives.”
Martha Beck says something similar in her book The Way of Integrity: “Every single choice is a chance to turn toward the life you really want.”
Glennon Doyle calls this “following the ‘next right step.”
Anne Lamott likens it to driving through a fog at night: We can only see as far as the headlights, but we can make it all the way home that way.
What is the life I really want? For almost a year now, I have struggled with this question. I have allowed what others wanted for me, or what others told me I ought to want, to throw me off balance and set me off track. I have followed the voices of those around me–voices of those I love, voices of those I trust, voices of those who have sincerely had my best interests in mind–but whose voices WERE NOT MY OWN. Until recently, when I looked up and found myself deeply lost inside what Martha Beck calls “The Dark Wood of Error.”
Suddenly, I realized that I’d lost touch of my OWN voice, that deep “knowing” that has been guiding me for the past three years. I’d lost my peace, my serenity, even, at times, my capacity for basic human kindness. This realization terrified me. I told someone recently that I feel lately like every single decision I make is the wrong one. And I realize now that this feeling comes from the fact that for the past year, many of my decisions have not been my own.
There is only one way I know to move out of this “dark wood”: One step, one choice, one decision at a time. One slight move toward the life I want. One tiny turn toward the things that inspire me, resonate with me, and bring me joy. One breadcrumb after another until I find my way home again. Regardless of what anyone else thinks. Regardless of how anyone else responds. As Beck writes, and I have found to be true in my own life, “every single choice is a chance to turn toward the life you really want. Repeatedly putting a little less time into what you don’t love, and a little more into what you do love, is your next step in the way of integrity.”
What does this mean for me? It means I choose my own path, which will, by necessity, look different than anyone else’s. It means I suffer the consequences of other people’s judgment. It means I may, and probably will, lose people along the way. It means, as Heidi Priebe wrote in her essay, You Should Choose the Lifestyle You Want Over the Person You Want, “I throw myself into the heart of possibility instead of staying comfortably settled inside of certainty. Because I owe it to myself to do so. I owe it to myself to live the greatest life I’m capable of living.”
Even if that means I have to live it alone.