While the unfamiliar road presents itself as a risky, difficult choice, it is also the path with the greatest opportunity to discover and learn from embracing the unknown — celebrate the adventure!
There is tremendous opportunity for adventure and discovery when we do not know where the paths on our journey will lead. If every journey started with the knowledge of a defined result or outcome there would be no adventure, no mystery, and no story. The lesson is found in the experience of the risk, not in the safety of a predictable outcome.
When I first moved to New Jersey, I would take my wife and my two year-old son out for a Sunday drive. Even though my wife grew up in New Jersey, she was relatively directionally challenged. She knew how to get the important places – home, school, church, work, grocery store, the Jersey Shore, and her parents’ house. After that, other directions were anyone’s guess.
I was quite different. No matter where I was, I had the ability to somehow find my way. My intuitive sense of direction combined with my ability to remember landmarks made me a navigating machine. At the center of it all was my high degree of comfort with the adventure of exploration and discovery.
Our Sunday drives were about “getting lost.” The first time I said, “let’s go get lost” my wife was a little nervous. She knew I wasn’t kidding. She also knew she couldn’t help us find our way if we actually did get lost. We certainly did not have the safety of all the navigational devices in 1982 that we do today.
Getting lost was about the opportunity to go on an adventure. It was an opportunity to learn, to discover, and to understand. I would take roads that neither of us knew where they lead to. I would enjoy the scenery, celebrate the views, discover the region and eventually find my way home. In the end, I learned how to navigate the highways and byways of Northern New Jersey and New York City.
Life is an adventure. There is beauty in the adventures of life. You do not always need to know where you are going. You do not always need to have a defined outcome. And, you certainly do not benefit by avoiding getting lost or confused. All those experiences are part of the learning and development process. Finding your way after getting lost is part of the experience. In fact, it is the most important part of the experience of life.
When I reflect back on those Sunday rides, I loved finding my way. Sometimes I would end up further out than I had anticipated or more off course than I realized. We always ended up safely at home with a little more knowledge about the roads, the region, and some of the sites that we may not have discovered any other way. And, the experience benefited me later in life. I learned the roads well enough to drive a limo, drive a truck, and manage a sales territory in the Metropolitan NYC area without once using a road map or directions.
As you contemplate the actions in your life, remember you do not always need to know where you are going. You will often discover your route once you start your journey. Besides there are often detours and road blocks on your journey anyway. Attempting to define the outcome before you depart is great if you only want to end up in one clearly defined place. How do you know that is where you really want to be? How did you define your destination? Taking directions also means you are relying on someone else to help you define where you need to go. Where is the adventure in that?
It is your life, your journey, and your adventure. Getting a little lost is the best opportunity to learn and grow. It is the best way for you to embrace life’s challenges as you discover and learn on the path of your journey. Next time you want to plot a course for your life, pick the direction and let the experience of getting lost be part of your trip. You will be amazed by the excitement of the adventure and power contained in the lessons.
Dave Cooke is currently working on a bike ride across the US — 4500 miles, 100 days – where he will be speaking to young adults on this journey about the power of making a commitment to engage in positive behaviors to influence productive outcomes. To make this journey possible he is relying on sponsors and donations. To donate.