more than a metaphor
Many years ago a man had been told about a great place within walking distance from his home. Apparently, sometimes the walk was a bit demanding but the persistent hiker would be rewarded by arriving at a beautiful blue lake surrounded by old and majestic trees and flowering meadows.
First there was a bit of a steep hill to climb; the man knew this, for he had walked there before. So, again, he walked up there.
Then he arrived at a fork in the pathway, and he could see that there would be a well-recognizable, well-trodden path to the left. To the right he was able to identify the path for a few meters in, but then it got lost in the grass. He knew this too, he had tried to walk on this path but after a few strides no path could be found anymore.
Each time he had then returned to the fork and each time he had selected to walk the left path. Each time when he got back to the fork in the road, he felt disheartened and started to worry whether he would ever find the lovely blue lake. It looked like no one else had ever attempted to continue on the right side path. No footsteps indicating a path that had been travelled on, only grass and stones and rocks from what he could see.
The man also worried that he might fall and get hurt and no one might find him. He told himself that there must be a way to find the blue lake by using the well-trodden path to the left. After all, surely, this must be the case, otherwise another walking option ought to be easy to find. So, he had tried and tried but to no avail… And the man started to chastise himself for failing to get where he wanted, and he told himself he wasn’t trying hard enough…. So, instead of relaxing by the blue lake, the man became stressed and angry and frustrated.
- Imagine again:
What might happen if this day the man decided to continue walking towards the right?
We all like to travel the well-trodden path. We know it and it’s easy and we know we can do it! The well-trodden path became well-trodden because we walked it a lot.
We don’t actually need to search for it anymore, because we can find it on “autopilot”. The well-trodden path has been established through many repetitions. It is part of our learning history, rooted in our habits and our self-made rules on ‘what makes life work’.
If we want to create change in our lives we need to beware the well-trodden path and decide on finding/creating a new pathway.
- Walking a new way once makes no inroads. To create a new path means to walk the new path often.
- Walking a new way takes courage and determination and persistence (and ACT skills and tools are immensely helpful for this!).
… more than a metaphor:
Stepping away from old choices and selecting a new path means we need to act with awareness. It also means that we create new neural pathways in the brain.
The more often we follow through choosing where we really want to go, means that over time we create and thicken new brain circuits which will help us to continue making better choices.
To help us make changes we need to employ the language of change:
- I choose ….
- I want …
- I am working towards …
When we arrive at a choice point, i.e. the fork in the road, we need to ask ourselves:
- Who makes the choices in my live?
- My thoughts of doom and gloom; my feelings of fear and anxiety, frustration and anger…?
- Or I?