Happy March! The Theme Is…
It’s still quite chilly outside here in New England, but I am summoning Spring vibes. Not only the actual daffodils and robins with their big red bellies, but what Spring symbolizes: renewal, growth, more light, and the coming of warmth. In line with my hopeful thinking, March’s theme will be Spring Shifting, with an intention being placed on clearing out the old or the stagnant and intentionally welcoming great things (and any birds that might want to come sing outside my window!).
This week’s post takes a grand view of shifting with its focus on developing even better life paths. In what follows, I guide you through evaluating what works, what doesn’t, and give you prompts to both name your path and to identify how to make choices and take actions that will serve you. These methods can be applied broadly via values or goals, or to specific aspects of your daily actions, such as writing a dissertation or replacing a bad habit with a good one.
What is a Path?
When I say “path,” I am referring to the mindful experience of choosing how to live your life. In my mind, being on a path is more about the process than the destination. Here’s an example: on a beautiful day, if you decide to go out and walk in the woods, your interest is probably not in hitting a particular distance or record time. You’re likely more interested in getting away from the busy hubbub of your phone and email and instead taking in the sights and sounds of nature. That forest walk is a symbol of a life path filled with natural beauty and mindfulness
How Can a Path Serve Me?
When you’re on a path, you make choices that move you in particular directions. You likely know the Robert Frost lines, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” You also have the opportunity to make large and small decisions that affect how your path will develop. Sometimes your path will feel like an exciting Choose Your Own Adventure story. Sometimes it will feel like it has a mind of its own and is taking you along for the ride (hi, tenderhearts going through your Saturn Return!). Certain choices will serve the unfolding of one path, while others will open a different path for you to experience and practice. Therefore, when I talk about making choices that serve you and/or your path, I am asking you to actively establish the kind of life you want to live.
A note on privilege: It is important to acknowledge that not everyone has equal access to the paths they would like to live. For example, white supremacy, sexism, and restrictions on access to resources will indirectly affect certain groups of people, including people of color, women, and poor and working-class people, whereas other people will have smoother paths due to privileges they were born into or achieved on their paths. We should strive to contextualize our conceptions of “good” or “bad” life paths in terms of oppression, privilege, and access.
How to Build a Path that Serves You
In preparing for this post, I asked myself four key questions:
- What is my life’s path?
- What nourishes my path?
- What prevents me from progressing on that path?
- What enables me progress on my path?
Below, I’ll walk you through the process of answering these questions and share some of my favorite answers.
What is My Life’s Path?
To identify your path, think about what you would like to be doing along the way. Consider which values, purposes, and emotions you would like to spend your time and energy practicing during this lifetime.
Some of my favorite answers I recorded were: love, being of service to others, noticing beauty, spirituality, telling Lisa Ben’s story, partnership and community, peace, learning, experiencing creativity, and connection.
What Nourishes My Path?
These are the actions that enable you to inhabit or practice the values, emotions, and states of being that you identified when you described your path above.
You can identify your path broadly, or you can focus explicitly on particular paths, such as work, relationships, healing, etc. I encourage you to try both!
Some of my favorite answers were: being in nature, committing to healing privately and working with healers, paying people ethically for their labor, going to museums, reading, taking time to daydream, direct communication, dates with my friends, learning, creating, eating nourishing food, getting lost in the sweetness of talking to my Sweetie, listening to interviews with creatives, and prayer.
What Prevents Me From Progressing on My Path?
These are the things that make progressing on our path challenging. Sometimes they are direct choices we make, but sometimes they are outside of our control. For our purposes, feel free to acknowledge the uncontrollable ones, but try to focus on the choices you make that you can control.
Some of my favorite answers were: being on my phone when I’m spending time with loved ones and my pets, negative self talk, body shame instead of body care, mind altering substances, feeling angry when I’m actually scared, wasting money on crap I don’t need, and codependency.
I was very interested that chronic pain and Complex PTSD didn’t make this list, because they definitely affect the way I live my life. When I investigated why they weren’t on there, I realized that I have already been factoring my experience with them into how I construct my path. While I choose to continue to heal from both, I choose also to build a path that honors their existence and functions with them, rather than trying to force myself on a challenging path where I ignore them.
What Enables my Progress on My Path?
Consider which choices you can make to help establish the path you want to occupy. Small steps add up, and shifts in perspective can have a large effect on the kind of path you live.
Some of my answers are: saving money to start a business, building habits and routines, sobriety, setting boundaries around my energy expenditure, leaving white space in my schedule, making time for art, and really listening to the people I love.
Write Your Own Eulogy or Legacy
The following exercise can help you to develop your path from the perspective of having lived it. The goal is to write either your own eulogy or the legacy you hope to leave (choose either one, depending on what feels comfortable to you, or try both and see what overlaps).
This exercise is a tried and true method for getting a perspective check on whether or not your current choices are serving the life path you wish to develop. Writing your own eulogy or legacy is powerful, and will force you to identify if how you’re spending your time and energy is truly in service of what you hope to accomplish in this lifetime.
Step 1: While you write, put yourself in the perspective of people who knew you well and cared about you.
Step 2: Set a timer for 10-20 minutes, and draft away, considering what they would remember and celebrate about you (if you’re really on a roll, you can draft longer).
Step 3: Once you run out of ideas or time, review your draft and see if you can identify any patterns or things that surprise you.
Step 4: Then, try to condense your eulogy or legacy down to just 3-5 sentences.
Step 5: Once you’ve got your 3-5 sentence-long eulogy or legacy, ask yourself if your current path is in line with the one you imagined. Are your decisions and perspectives enabling you to live the life you want people to remember you by? If not, what are small and large shifts you can make? Which long- and short-term intentions and goals would help you to build a path that serves you? Are there new actions you want to perform? Boundaries you want to set? Hobbies you want to try? Apologies you want to issue? Breaks you want to take? Love letters you want to send? Habits your want to break or build? The opportunities are truly endless, and what an exciting gift that is!