I grew up in a small, rural town in the Midwest. You could get just about everywhere on a dirt road. Some were lined with stately oak and maple trees. Others were surrounded by fields of wheat or corn as far as the eye could see.
Some roads stretched ahead until they faded into obscurity. Others would wind back and forth, bending and meandering with the contours of the landscape. These roads demanded that, as a driver, you continuously adapt and change. Slow down. Speed up. Turn left. Veer right.
There is so much to be learned about choices and change along a country road. Here are 10 things I discovered about life while living in the country:
1. Decelerate as you approach a curve.
When you are nearing any change in your life that could redirect your chosen path, it is wise to slow down, think, and prepare. Anticipate the possible outcomes, and determine the steps you may need to take. This is imperative if you are approaching a blind curve.
You may not know what lies ahead, what obstacles may be in the road, or even the direction the road may take. We can never anticipate and plan for all possible scenarios, but based on the road so far, we likely can predict the most probable outcomes. When we take the time to predict, we can then prepare.
2. Don’t regret the roads not taken.
A storm can just as easily darken your path on your chosen road as it can along any other course. And, you never really know for certain where the other roads lead. There could be construction to slow you down or detours to reroute you.
Yes, there could also be glorious scenery and a cool mountain breeze. I think it is only human to attribute the best possible outcome to the choices we did not choose. Just remember this — if you had taken that other path instead, you would long for the one you are on.
Regret is futile. The road is what we make it. And, perfection does not exist, but in our minds. Your car will need maintenance, and there will be bumps, regardless of the path taken.
3. Ride with the right person.
The wisdom and experiences of others can serve as a compass for us. The person next to you may have been down this road before, or may simply provide direction as a competent navigator. Either way, the advice and guidance offered can not only help us make a choice and make a change, but also have confidence in ourselves as we move forward.
However, we are still the ones driving. We must make the decision, accept the outcome, and continue on. Ultimately, we are the only ones who own that choice. Make the right choice for you.
4. Stop occasionally to rest.
Take care of yourself. Stretch. Breathe in the fresh air. Sometimes we just need to pause. We need to be present and focused on nothing more than this moment in time. We need to appreciate the path we are on. We can then return to our journey with clarity and conviction. And, perhaps, we can return with that split second of absolute and infinite courage we need to keep going.
5. Watch your speed.
It is not a race. There isn’t a trophy at the end. I have never seen a finish line in real life. Travel your path at your pace. Do what feels right to you. There may be times when you need to slow down and reevaluate. There may be times when you just want to slow down and enjoy the view. You are the driver. You set your pace. Don’t worry if others pass you.
6. Check your rear-view mirror.
Your past provides invaluable lessons. It also provides precious memories. Take it for what it is — a series of recollections, some more hazy than others. Learn from it, become a better person because of it, but don’t dwell on it. Move forward. Look at the possibilities you are moving towards, not the places you have already been.
7. Know the GPS can get it wrong.
Sometimes you need to trust your own intuition. Sometimes we feel as though a road has been chosen for us. We are expected to follow a certain path, make certain stops, and move at a certain speed. This may not be the right path for you. If the directions you are receiving don’t feel right, trust yourself. Trust your own intuition. Follow your heart. You know what is best for you.
8. Ask for directions.
If you are lost, it is ok to stop and ask for help. It is admirable to ask for help. It is even ok to put the car in reverse and back-up. Sometimes we need to retrace our steps to find our way again. But, only turn back to another road if you are certain you are going the wrong direction. You may not need to take a different path, you may simply need a little confidence, a little encouragement, and a little help along the way.
9. Enjoy the scenery.
Change is difficult. Some decisions are inconsequential. Other decisions completely alter the direction of our life. These can be scary. These can be overwhelming. But, we can’t allow fear to paralyze us.
Making a decision is always better than no decision at all. Make the choice, and move forward. Recognize and appreciate the scenery along the road you choose. Every choice has something beautiful to offer. Don’t focus on regret. Don’t watch your path fade in the rear-view mirror. If you do, you miss the joy that surrounds you.
10. Turn the radio up and roll the windows down.
Sometimes, our favorite song on the radio, the warmth of the sun, and fresh air is all we really need. The simple things in life don’t cost much — most don’t cost anything at all. No matter where your path takes you, don’t lose sight of the simple things. These are the things that lead to true happiness, peace, and contentment.