All of us are likely to reach a fork in the road at various times during our lives. Those times when our choices can put us on a radically different trajectory. And for better or for worse we could, as a result, end up in a radically different place.
Sometimes these forks are easy to recognize and we have time to ponder and choose. Maybe even ask someone else for directions. Sometimes it’s not til quite a while later, possibly even years later, that we look back and see them retrospectively. That we inadvertently made a choice and that’s why we’re where we are now.
I reached one of those forks in the road quite recently, and it was one where really, I didn’t want to go in either direction. Yet going back wasn’t an option either. It rarely is.
Making difficult choices.
When faced with two equally difficult choices, it really pays to look as far forward as you can to see where each path may lead. Perhaps right now, neither choice is all that much fun. But if you look forward far enough, sometimes you can see the potential destination of each choice.
Which is easy enough to say, but what do you do in the meantime when the going is tough? For me, I tend to come up with a go-to ‘mantra’. Please know, I’m not talking about some weird, kooky, spiritual thing here. Just a very basic, easy to remember and repeat ‘thing’ that I can hang on to when the going gets tough.
For me, there’s no one size fits all mantra either. I write a new one for each shit situation I find myself in. And without being too specific about my situation right now, I’m going to share my latest one with you.
It’s this: Be strong. Be kind. Be true.
When the weight of my choices are getting on top of me, I try and remember this, and what it means to me.
The first part is pretty straight forward, and is probably quite relevant to most of us in most crappy situations. When things are rough, you’ve got to be at least relatively strong and resilient to make it through. Nothing lasts forever. Not the good times or the bad. So sometimes you just have to be as strong as you can for as long as you can and hope like hell you outlast the shit that’s hitting the fan.
Then there’s ‘Be kind’. You know, when things are rough, it’s easier than ever to forget to be kind to people. Or yourself. Especially if you’re feeling like someone else might be the cause of your pain. (Which usually, they’re not anyway, but let’s not go there. That’s a topic for another day.)
Sometimes being kind means saying and doing the difficult things that need to be said and done, even if they’re not easy. And sometimes, it involves exactly the opposite – and just letting things go without the need to say or do anything at all. No matter how much you might like to.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
How do you know the difference and when to do what? That’s where ‘Be true’ comes in. Being true to yourself and your own values and principles. Being true to the kind of person you say you are or most want to be. We are our actions. If you’re ever not clear about what to do, or not to do, just think about the person you most want to be, and think about what that person, that version of you, would do.
Because the funny thing is, if you make those choices and do those things often enough, low and behold, you’ll end up being that person.
Next time you hit a fork in the road or are faced with difficult choices or journeys, maybe consider writing yourself a mantra. It doesn’t have to be poetic. It doesn’t have to sound cool. Hell, you don’t even have to say it out loud, so don’t feel the pressure to write something eloquent enough to withstand external scrutiny. This is simply something that has to work for you. That helps you keep your eyes on the prize. That stops your mind wandering in the wrong direction.
And if all else fails, you can always borrow mine: Be strong. Be kind. Be true.