The roads less travelled and more
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Recently in the light of some professional choices that had to be made, I have been thinking about the decision-making process and often remembering the evergreen lines from one of the most popular poems of American literature, Robert Frost’s ‘The Road not Taken’ – an ode to all the roads that diverge, equally lie ahead, lead on to each other, the ones less travelled, and more, the ones we take and the ones we leave for another day.
While the poem on the surface seems to celebrate triumphant self-assertion with the words “I took the one less travelled”, by the speaker’s own admission, two paths “equally lay / In leaves” and “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.” What he claims is “the road less travelled” is in fact equally travelled, making the two paths same and interchangeable, much like our choices in life.
As the speaker concludes “ages and ages hence” that his decision made “all the difference” apportioning his lot in life to a decision made at the crossroads, it is reminiscent of the way we all feel sometimes that our current circumstances are a product of our choices as opposed to a pre-destined, personalised itinerary. As much as our perception leads us to believe one choice may be more advantageous than the other, and by choosing it, we assert some control over the flow of our lives, is this really the case?
Almost four decades of right and wrong decisions, I am beginning to make peace with the idea that life’s flow may be part design and part the small steps in the right or wrong direction we take on the journey. More so, I have come to find simple ways to overcome the agony of the decision-making process. What used to take me a week or two of deliberating, listing pros and cons, asking anyone who would listen their opinion, I am now at a better place in my life where decisions take a day or two at the most. The secret? Just a few calculated steps to a calmer mind.
List all the pros and cons
An analytical approach is often the easiest way to see which decision makes the most sense. When you make your pros and cons list, do not dismiss anything as too silly or too insignificant; the devil’s in the detail. For instance, choosing between two jobs, you write down the short commute for one as a pro, this may just be the small detail the final decision will hinge on. What you may think is inconsequential may be the biggest reason you choose to follow a course.
Put the list away
It is no good, once you’ve made your list, to continue dwelling on it. Put it away for a day or two until you know you can come back to it with a calm spirit and fresh eyes. You will edit and re-edit your list and may even find some of what you’d put down earlier as irrelevant.
Listen to your gut
While an analytical decision-making process is smart, it is also worth listening to your gut. Over the thousands of years of fight or flight our ancestors honed what we call their gut instinct to keep safe from harm. If your gut is telling you something either in favour of or against a decision, it pays to pay it attention.
Once you’ve made your list, pondered, bounced ideas off a friend, it is best to let go and let God, meaning you need to stop agonising and make peace with your decision, not worrying about where it will lead you.
Sleep on it
You know the adage: ‘sleep on it’ – it is true. During REM sleep, our subconscious takes over and tries to communicate messages our conscious may have supressed during the hour of wakefulness. Have you ever gone to bed trying to solve a problem and woken up with the answer hours later? This is your unconscious problem-solving during deep sleep.
Decide in faith
Never make the mistake of making a decision out of fear – because you are afraid to lose or fail at something. Make all your decisions in faith; faith that you will win and you will achieve. Decisions made in faith of a better future to come brings back to you the same positive energy you sent the universe as opposed to a fearful one. Remember, you attract only what you reflect, so it is essential to let your decisions reflect faith over fear.