The left path or the right path?
Every now and then, you reach a fork in the road, and a decision is required of you.
To go right would be to honour your true self – to do what you really want to do – but would involve risk. To go left would be to betray yourself, but maybe avoid a temporarily uncomfortable situation.
You are free to make either choice, but you must realise that whichever path you choose, you are making a habit. Next time you’re in a similar situation, you will be slightly more likely to take that same path again.
Of course, that’s not what you’ll tell yourself when you take the left path. You’ll tell yourself that this time it’s different, it’s a temporary excursion – you genuinely don’t have a choice. And after all, it’s just this once – next time you’ll definitely take the right path, you promise…
No, you won’t. If you don’t practice taking the right path, it will get harder and harder to ever do so.
I turned down a couple of gigs recently. They were both for the same band – a band I quit last summer. One was in Great Yarmouth, the other was in Camden. I knew straight away that I didn’t want to do the gigs. I knew that the right thing to do was to say “no.” But man alive, it was torture trying to get myself to do it.
There were plenty of reasons for the conflict. I’m a musician – why wouldn’t I want a gig? There would have been a little bit of money – that never hurts. I’ve stepped in on previous gigs since I quit the band – what’s different this time?
I knew that “no” was my honest answer – to myself and to them.
And it might seem child-like to admit it, but saying “no” – and then sticking to it when the other party tried to negotiate my “no” – was a big step for me. Because I am – shamefully – a veteran of the left path. I’m practically a black belt at ignoring my inner voice when it’s the slightest bit inconvenient to hear it.
But I’m trying to be better.
When you think of whether someone is being honest with you or not, do you ever go further than just their words? I know I tend not to. But I’ve been thinking differently about honesty. Words are cheap. But actions mean something. They have weight.
So if I say “yes” to doing something I don’t want to do because it’s easier to in the moment, I might think I’m being polite, or kind, or going along to get along. Really, I’m really just lying. There’s nothing more to it.
Real honesty is shown through how you act – whether you go left or right at the fork in the road – not with your words.
You get what you practice
The more you do anything, the easier it becomes to do the next time. This is no less true with doing what you believe to be right than it is with baking a cake or painting a bowl of fruit.
I know, I know. Sometimes you will find yourself in a genuinely tight squeeze, where it will feel impossible to stay true to yourself. But I contend that most of the time when you feel like you have no choice, it’s a lie. You do have a choice. You’re just out of shape.
The only way to make it easier to live your truth is… to live your truth. Start with the things that feel easiest. Let your momentum build. This isn’t a pipe dream. This isn’t false optimism.
This is a tool available to you right now at this very second.
“Courage is grace under pressure.”Ernest Hemingway