As a directionally challenged person who has gotten lost on rural highways, city streets and even certain cavernous parking decks, I consider GPS to be one of the best inventions of all time. Whatever mapping app you use though, there is one route it can’t navigate — your path in life.
We all face certain crossroads at some point. You know, which job do you take if everything seems relatively equal? Is it time to move into a better living space or continue to save for rainy days, when that has been the predominant forecast in recent times? Tired of juggling two paramours, it’s time to focus on one and ditch the other. After listening to the advice of friends or building an exhaustive pro-con list, you make a choice. Only to wonder, immediately or a few months later, if you really screwed that up. Here are 3 signs that you may be on the wrong path in life and what to do about it:
Lack of joy.
As she shares in this podcast, Paola Antonelli, the Senior Curator of the Department of Architecture and Design/Director of R&D at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, initially studied economics and statistics in college because it was hard, but it sure didn’t make her happy.
Antonelli left school and started exploring numerous other options. To her surprise, visiting a creative architecture class piqued her curiosity and joy. Because of that choice to follow what resonated the most in the decades that followed, Antonelli is now one of the art world’s leading influencers.
Think about your current circumstances. Do you get a burst of happiness or positive resonance? If the situation makes you miserable, or even at best, just kind of “meh,” you are on the wrong path.
Continuous physical cues.
As a child, did you ever have a “don’t want to go to school” stomachache? The anxiety of dealing with an upcoming test in your worst subject or a bullying classmate caused many of us to literally feel sick and want to stay home. Your body will give you the same kind of cues as a grown-up that something is not right about the selected direction. If you feel a sense of heaviness thinking about your new role, or spikes of anxiety or a splitting headache along with your morning coffee each day, your body might be telling you that the current path is a mistake.
Disconnection from your “Why.”
Simon Sinek, the author of “Start With Why” and one of the most popular TED Talks of all time, says that great leaders inspire action by connecting people to the purpose and cause of their organization. As comedian Michael Jr. notes in his “Know Your Why” video, “the key isn’t to know what, the key is to know why. Because when you know your why, you have options on what your what can be. Your what has more impact because you are walking toward your purpose.”
Wise words, right? Think about what your “why” is — that purpose for being, the values and aspirations that motivate you. Now ask yourself — are you living in alignment with those core beliefs on your current path? If the answer is no, you are definitely headed in the wrong direction. Being disconnected from your “why” is only going to lead to feelings of being stuck deeper in the future.
Okay, so you are definitely on the wrong path. What do you do about it now?
For starters, acknowledge the lessons learned. Internationally acclaimed Japanese manga artist Natsuki Takaya once said, “Every time you fall down or take the wrong path, it isn’t wasted. You will surely develop and grow over time.” Chances are good that being on the wrong path taught you something important about yourself and what you desire out of life.
Now it is time to make a new plan. If the decision you made is really recent, investigate pivoting back to the unchosen alternative if it is still appealing and no bridges were burned. Can see those doors are permanently closed? Then focus on moving forward in a direction that brings you joy, feels right to your body as well as your mind and is deeply connected with your “why.” Utilizing that criteria can help you make more fulfilling decisions in both your personal and professional life.
Have you ever been on the wrong path in life? If so, what did you do about it?