||Forks in the Road
Many years ago, I taught workshops on self-hypnosis, and one of my favorite subjects was to introduce people to their “optimal future self”. This part of the psyche represents the best potential we have in us – the potential to heal, to become more than we have imagined, to resolve issues we thought we couldn’t overcome. One of the exercises I suggested to people was called “the fork in the road”. (This exercise currently exists on one of my audiotapes, “Saying ‘Yes’ to Your Future”.) It’s one of my favorites, because it offers practice in becoming aware of choice – do I move in the direction I’ve always gone, or do I choose a new path that takes me into my deeper potential?
During a workshop I gave recently, I recalled the power of this choice point in my own life. Years ago, I had a truly debilitating speaking anxiety, which I’m sure I’ve referenced in other experiments. Each time I was scheduled to teach, I had to make a choice: do I give in to my fear and cancel the workshop or do I take that other path of a deeper potential and go ahead anyway? By consistently choosing to go ahead anyway, I overcame my fear and now enjoy interacting with an audience, something I would never have imagined possible when I began the journey.
The choice points we face at these forks in the road come in all sizes and shapes – big and small, all textures and qualities. For example, I was in my local produce store one evening, picking up some food to eat, and – as was true of everyone there at that hour – I just wanted to get home and settle in for what was left of the evening. Rounding a corner on the way to the check-out stand, I nearly bumped into an elderly woman in front of me, who walked slowly toward the check-out area. I noticed a momentary flicker of irritation at having to slow down, but found myself at a fork in the road. Was I going to give into my irritation, or was I going to practice conscious living and recognize that the woman ahead of me was moving as quickly as she could and that I’d get to the check-out stand eventually. As I shifted into releasing my momentary irritation, the woman behind me bumped into me and muttered with irritation that I was slowing things down. She hadn’t yet seen the elderly woman in front of me. I shifted myself a bit so she could see ahead and she stopped pushing me, but continued to sigh and complain all the way to the check-out stand.
As I reflected on this experience later, I was reminded of the power of the choices we make from moment to moment, of how these choices affect our quality of life. No one else may ever know that we are at a fork in the road and that we choose not to escalate distress, or we choose to stretch our comfort zone and do something that scares us. But, we know, and the benefits or resulting stress stay with us and have an impact on our sense of well-being, or lack of it.
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to become more aware of your own forks in the road – those moments when you have a choice to fall into old, habitual behaviors, or go with a new road that awakens your deeper potential. Choosing the new road offers an opportunity to develop psychological and emotional muscle, to deepen mindfulness practice, and to generally become more consciously aware of what you’re doing moment to moment. And, even when you choose the old, habitual road, the gift is that you can more quickly recognize you’ve done so and then – perhaps – make a new choice.
As with all the experiments, be gentle with yourself, leaving self-judgment behind. The goal, as always, isn’t to get it “right”. Instead, it’s to offer yourself a dynamic invitation to live more consciously and to recognize that choice points are forks in the road – are opportunities to practice new ways of being, or to rediscover how the old ones don’t work anymore.