The Path You’re Taking vs. The Path You Think You’re Taking


One day I was sitting in my living room in Montana with a close friend of mine. I had been contemplating moving on in search of a new project, a cycle which, for me, happens every 2 to 3 years. I loved the people in Montana, I loved the mountains, and I loved what I was doing. And I kept repeating that to myself. I was going to stay, I told my friend.

Years later, when my friend recalled that conversation to me, she pointed out how my actions didn’t match my words. First of all, I didn’t stay. But apparently, during that moment in my living room, I was saying, “I think I’m going to stay,” and simultaneously  packing my belongings. I was literally placing my books into moving boxes while my words would indicate I was settling in The Treasure State under the Big Sky for a lifetime.

Have you told yourself you’re ready to settle down, but you take no steps to root and ground yourself? It’s important to pay attention to those moments when you don’t decorate your house because in your gut you know the place you’re in doesn’t feel like “home.” Or when a co-worker shares they’re very happy with their job, but they scroll through job listings and update their résumé. There isn’t anything wrong with feeling conflicted, but taking notice of it makes it easier to see your truth.

I often tell myself I want something, but my behavior tells a different story.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as saying, “I’ve been doing great at saving money!” as I order one more treat online or continue dining out 4 nights per week. I’ve told myself, “I’m going to focus on my needs more.” The next day I’m attending meetings for 3 volunteer boards. I tell myself I want a balanced life, and yet, I bring my work home with me. I take it with me on vacation. I answer e-mails on my phone while on the toilet. (And then briskly sanitize my phone – don’t look at me with those judgy eyes).

What’s frustrating is that the truth being sought isn’t always in my words or in my actions. Just because I decide (consciously or subconsciously) to move towards something or someone, doesn’t mean it’s the right answer. People often act against their own interests and sometimes, against their best interests. And just because I say I want or don’t want something or someone, doesn’t mean that is necessarily the case, either.

At times, I justify actions I shouldn’t be doing by saying I’m not doing them! Denial is a very common defense mechanism. If I’m adamant about not wanting a relationship, but start dating someone regularly or start to seek companionship, there’s an incongruence. I must take stock of which desire is really true and align my words and actions appropriately. Otherwise, I’m perpetuating my own confusion. And it’s not a lot of fun for the other person who is receiving the mixed messages.

Momentary good feelings can lead us down paths we, deep down, need to avoid. And later down the road, you may resent the fact you got stuck in something you didn’t really want. I’ve had one too many relationships where physical attraction kept me with someone longer than I knew it was supposed to last. If I really want a trustworthy, reliable partner, maybe my hormones are not the best indicator. If I just want to “have fun,” that can be a mine field too, as relationships can become one-sided very quickly. Being certain, even about your own uncertainty, is important for any partner. If both parties are not in alignment with their wants and desires, it can get really messy and feel like tug-of-war.

The dissonance between our actions and words can very easily become a habit, and even part of our character. Do we all have that friend that constantly broadcasts their intentions, but never follows through? We wouldn’t hold it against them, if they just admitted they didn’t follow through! Or, of course, the better option: they start following through. But as observers and participants in other people’s lives, we can forgive more easily their undesirable behavior if they own up to it, if they’re honest about it. To avoid distrust and resentment from my peers, I plan to be honest. I’m known for having a difficult time delegating. In my head, I want people to respect me for my leadership and would love to think of myself as good at delegating. But the truth is inescapable. So, when I tell my team, “I have a hard time delegating,” they trust me for admitting it, and can help me let go a little bit. I highly suggest asking a close friend to observe what you’re doing and saying. You just might find out you’re traveling east when you’ve told yourself to head west.

The hardest part, though, isn’t to be honest with others, but with ourselves. If we admit our true feelings and wants, we have an obligation to pursue them. And committing and seeking what we truly want can be scary. What if I end up NOT wanting it after I get it? What if I pursue what I want and lose it? Both of these scenarios have played out in my life, and I’ve had to step back, check in, and shake myself back into alignment. I suggest an alignment every 3 months (or 3,000 miles per manufacturer’s suggestion). Turn the car off, and really look under the hood. A few adjustments and you’ll be back on the road, good as new. From personal experience, when you avoid your “regular service,” you can end up with an expensive and lengthy repair job.

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