Three years ago, I started down on a dimly lit path that seemed very much less traveled, surrounded by many unknowns.
Step by step, I put one foot in front of another. Some days, it was easier. Other times, I inched forward haltingly. During the darkest portions of the path, I froze, wondering where I was going and if I was making the wrong decision.
I didn’t realize at the time my path was no different than before. That the winding path up ahead was meant to be for only one—myself—as it had been all along.
There is no path less traveled; there’s only the one you’re on.
Ironically, the unknown that terrified me was also what held the hope of finding something different. The unknown held the opportunity to find what I believe we’re all looking for in our own way—meaningful growth.
The meaningful progress we seek is a lifelong exercise. What’s meaningful now can be changing a part of your life, learning something new or letting go of an old belief. What’s meaningful to you a few years down the road may be something else. Meaningful progress will look different throughout your life. Whatever is meaningful to you at a certain moment in time is what you may need to further an area of growth.
This desire for growth was what spurred me to keep going during moments of doubt. It’s what led to the various experiences I’ve had since then. From quitting my job, to sabbatical, to working in a completely different field as a contractor, freelancer and back to full-time, it’s been an amazing journey. The moments that seemed scary or ridiculous at the time, I look back on and realize it was what I needed to experience in order to move on to the next part of the journey.
In retrospect, things always make more sense. In foresight, things often feel scary, crazy or unfeasible.
That’s because we’re not great at foresight. Most of us don’t realize that the path we’re on has always been uniquely ours. It only hasn’t appeared that way.
Oftentimes our current paths merge with many others. We may have spent years seemingly on the same path with our friends, peers, or family members—going to school, working at jobs, residing on neighboring streets, or saving up for retirement.
But during pivotal parts of the journey, we all reach forks in the road.
There will be routes you can go where many others you know are going. There will be routes you can take that no one you know is going.
A part of me back then felt apprehensive in wandering off the path I was on seemingly with so many others. Considering we survived as a species through safety in numbers, the fear we instinctively feel when splitting off from the herd is undeniable and understandable.
But really, we’ve all been on different paths from the day we were born. And while there are patterns, no one’s path will look exactly like yours.
While your path may cross and run together with others, you are on your own great adventure.
This is why it’s meaningless and counterproductive to compare your path to others. What someone else wants or achieves has nothing to do with you. It’s why a piece of advice, learning or experience will be relevant at differing times for each one of us.
For any of you considering a significant change or leap in your life, it’s worth reminding yourself that where you’re going isn’t up for anyone’s approval or judgment. While you can take inspiration from others, overly comparing or focusing on other people’s experiences won’t be beneficial or relevant to your life.
There’s no right or wrong way, no path less traveled.
There’s only the path you’re on—the one you’re choosing with each step you take, day by day.