From time to time we all lose our way. We forget our path, take a wrong turn, or allow fear to guide our steps. It’s not uncommon to get to a point where we feel like we can’t see the exit, or even the entrance, and to wonder how in the world we got where we are, and how in the world we are going to get out. Follow along for a simple but powerful way to do just that — see clearly when the darkness of doubt and uncertainty start to close in.
When I was a kid, the summer days would slowly roll into night, and before I knew it, it was dark and time to head home. At that age, it made no sense to just walk down the street, so I would take a shortcut through the neighbors yard, travelling along the same path I had used over and over again.
First through the Williams’ driveway, past the garage, and then into the labyrinth of their backyard, full of azaleas, rose bushes, palmettos and bird baths. I walked that path a thousand times during my childhood.
During the daytime, I could breeze through the backyard, casually strolling along the well worn path, with a clear understanding of precisely where every plant and yard ornament stood. But it was always different in the dark.
All clarity escaped me as I entered into the uncertainty of darkness. The path that I knew so well suddenly has twists and turns that I had never noticed before (at least in my mind). I would stumble over yard ornaments that are out of place from their normal daytime routine. The palmettos and rose bushes joined together to form menacing faces and hidden monsters, lurking in the darkness and reaching out to grab me as I pass.
Many a night did I travel this path. Over time, you would suspect that I would come to understand that it was all an illusion. You might think I could take what I saw during the day, and remind myself about what was real, and what was true, and walk that well known path without fear. But over and over again, I stumbled my way home, worried about what was in there with me, afraid of what I could not see.
We all find ourselves on a darkened path from time to time as we go along our journey. Uncertainty strikes us in life, relationship, business, and in our own internal struggles, whatever they may be. It’s easy to become afraid, to see things that aren’t there (but be certain that they are), and to create additional tension in an already challenging situation.
When this happens, it seems that we make one of two decisions.
1. We freeze.
We are so overcome with doubt and uncertainty that we simply cannot move forward. Or our movement slows to a crawl, as we inch our way out of the darkness, for fear of disturbing the monsters lurking in the corner with the garden gnomes and bird feeders.
2. We speed up, and lose our way.
When we find ourselves in the dark, it’s easy to try and rush through, put our head down, and get out of their as fast as we can. This was my preferred method of escape throughout my childhood.
Choosing door number one leaves us feeling stuck, doubtful, and uncertain. It becomes hard for us to make decisions, paralyzed by fear and frozen in the moment.
Door number two sounds good. Just get out as quickly as you can. It works, if your only goal is to get out, and maybe sometimes it is.
The problem with door number two is that while it may be a quick fix, (maybe), it doesn’t help long term.
Fighting fear doesn’t work. It just drags us in closer. One has to focus on what is real. On the truth. When in darkness, don’t fight it. You can’t win. Just find the nearest switch, and turn on the light.
The key is this, when in darkness, have a light switch you’ve chosen standing by.
When the darkness closes in, flip the switch.
What is real about you, about your situation, about what you are doing and why?
What is true about you, about who you are, about what you really want?
What is true about your mission, your vision, your plans for your future, and the good you are doing in the world?
Flip the switch, turn on the light.
See clearly when the darkness of doubt and uncertainty start to close in.
Next Steps… In order to turn on the light, you need to be able to answer questions, similar to those above, about your truth, and what you know to be real. If you aren’t in a place right now that has you questioning, searching, and afraid, great! Use this time of clarity and focus to reflect on who you really are, what you really want, and what will remain true about you regardless of your circumstances. If you do find yourself in a period of self-doubt, confusion, or tangled up in fear, try to remind yourself about what you know to be true. If possible, step back from the noise, find some time to yourself, and reflect on the questions above. If you find that you just can’t get to that place of clarity, reach out to some trusted friends, mentors, or advisers. Sometimes we need people in our lives to remind us about who we are, until we can remember well enough on our own. I’m pulling for you,Bryan
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