Need to make a tough decision on the road of life? Ask yourself this ONE question.
Crossroads are terribly confusing things, especially if you have a war going on inside you. Here’s how to determine if you’re on the right path in life, and what decision to make next.
One question could change everything.
Join me as we flip back a few life chapters to the Fall of 2008.
I pull down the long driveway of “Song of the Morning” retreat center among the towering woods and shining rivers of Northern Michigan. The air is carrying a light and crisp feeling that indicates the seasons are about to change, and I breathe out in a sigh of joy and relief.
On this same weekend, a Zen teacher is there with a group of five students. On the second day, during one of the meditation sessions, he asked if anyone wanted to sit in from of him and ask any question they wanted (it’s a Zen thing). Side note: Inside I was majorly geeking out about this, as about 10 different martial art movies where running through my head – my nerd friends will understand. 😉
I’d love to tell you that in that moment I was completely fearless and jumped right in to ask my deepest question about life in front of all theses strangers, but that’s not what happened. Truth is, he called me out from the crowd, and said “it looks like you have something on your mind.” …So much for bravery.
So here I am, sitting on a meditation cushion only a few feet away from this Zen dude, with everyone in attendance staring at me. He adjusts his Jedi robes (I know that’s not what they’re called, just let me have this one) and prepares for my question. Then, with a completely calm and inviting voice he leans in and says to me, “So what is your question?”
I went on and on about the fork in the road I was at, and how I felt I had to pick between my two passions, counseling or life coaching for my career. I continued to tell him how I didn’t see how these two things could ever marry, because one was all about the past, and the other was all about the future. On paper they were competing approaches and philosophies. Etc. Etc. (I’m sure you’ve experienced your own back and forth on a subject you care about)
After hearing me exhaust all of my thoughts, and with a gentle smile of incredible patience on his face he politely leaned in again and repeated, “so what’s your question?”
My mind went completely blank, my face turned completely red, and after what felt like 10 minutes, my brain came back online. With a bit of confusion in my voice I asked, “how on Earth do I marry two schools of thought that are polar opposites of each other and make a clear decision about my future?” He closed his eyes, took three long and deep breaths, opened his eyes, and then gave me a “dad look” that said “don’t you dare bullshit me” and proceeded to ask me the ONE question that changed me life.
He asked: WHO ARE YOU? (you have to say it in slow motion to get the real effect of this guys voice)
….. I gulped, but in a way I thought the whole room could heard it.
….. An entire minute (or 12) went by – I don’t remember.
….. Eventually, my mind stopped racing. I took a breath and just spoke.
I’m a counselor, AND I’m a life coach. (I said with a bit of gumption)
Hmmm. (while nodding his head up and down)
So you’re a counselor. You focus on the past?
AND you’re a coach. You focus on the future?
You are both of these things?
Then he said…
Then they are already married.
…In a bit of a metal stun, I bowed towards him, got up, sat back down on my seat, and probably didn’t speak for an hour.
If you haven’t caught on, here is the moral of the story:
The answers we seek are already within us. They are just waiting for us to be still enough to hear them.
What I was doing was making decisions out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what might be, and fear of turning left when I should turn right. But the ONLY real decision I had to make was to DECIDE who I was.
Was I person of multiple passions, multiple interests, and multiple skills. YES. Was I a person who valued both personal healing AND personal achievement? YES. For me, there was no reason to split myself in two, just to fit into a box that others would understand more.
The question he asked returned me to my roots, and helped me gain the clarity I needed to make my next bold move. Today, I am a person who honors my history with psychotherapy AND my history with life coaching, and blends them together into my own style of life transformation.
So this is me, a man of many integrated values and passions, leaning towards you, with a completely calm and inviting voice and asking:
WHO ARE YOU?
(Or if you’re a Lion King fan, and can hear the voice of James Earl Jones in your head: “Remember who you are.”)
I hope this story resonated with you, and helped you find greater clarity at a time you needed it most.
See you on the path,
Oh hey there. Was there one idea or message in this article that got you thinking? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
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About the Author
Executive Coach and Founder of Journey Coaching Method™.
Patrick believes that each of us, without exception, has the power to shape our minds, bodies, and lives in any direction we choose. His mission is to help you get the insights, tools, and strategies you need to live an extraordinary life.