The Road Not Taken

Recently I was writing a research paper for my coaching course. I’d picked the topic ‘Decision Making, Intuition and Body Awareness’, something that interests me a lot. I was mulling over how I make decisions, and how I know when a decision is the right decision, when the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost came to mind, the poem that ends

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.

In the poem, making that choice, the decision to take the grassy, less travelled path, made ALL the difference. There is a note of regret at the end, the sigh, as if perhaps the decision didn’t quite work out as planned. Or maybe it did, I don’t know.

Imagine facing a decision in life with that mindset. That the choice is so important, so life changing, that once it is made it cannot be undone. There can be no backtracking, no wandering along one path for a while to see where it goes, no returning to the wood on another day to try out the other road. It’s an all or nothing decision, and it makes ALL the difference.

Perhaps you don’t need to imagine it. Perhaps this is how you think of decisions. It’s often how I think of them.

A decision weighs heavily on me and it feels like there is only one right and wrong outcome…but how to choose?

It’s easy at this point to become overwhelmed by the decision, the pros and cons, the associated emotions.   It all churns around in my conscious mind and I get stuck and don’t take action. 

Sound familiar?

What would happen if we looked at an important decision with lightness, with an open mind, with an attitude of exploration and curiosity? In the real world, we have a choice. We could take a map, and figure out where the paths go to before we choose which one to walk. We could visit the wood multiple times and try out all the paths. We could knock on the door of the cottage at the entrance to the wood and ask advice about which is the nicest path. We could walk one route for years and then cut across country to get back to the other path. Or we could blaze our own trail through the wood instead of following someone else’s route.

How would your life change if you took a lighter approach to decision making?


A funny thing…I have just realised, while googling the poet Robert Frost (about whom I know very little other than this one poem) that I have walked past his statue many times at Amherst College, where I go for summer tai chi workshops. The statue is in a very beautiful spot on campus, and there is often a small bird sitting on the poet’s head.


The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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.

Filling the well

Inspiration

seeps through

the cracks

like rain

on drought parched

soil.


Today, I sat down to do some work and I ended up taking a tour of some of my favourite blogs. I visited a Dutch garden filled with flowers and kindness, and followed the first post-lockdown journey of a canoe down Dutch canals. I read about walks in Lancashire, not far from where I live, photos of wide-open spaces, flowers and birds. I read about a coyote, emaciated and struggling in the desert in the USA, and the writer’s response to that struggle. I was taken step by step through the artistic process of collagraph printing meadow flowers and grasses (by an artist in Yorkshire whose courses I’d like to take when face to face courses eventually re-open).

I have been so busy recently that I have not had much time to visit these blogs, or to do lots of other unproductive (but enjoyable and inspiring) things. Actually, I don’t like the term ‘unproductive’. So many so-called unproductive things are actually the starting point for creative work.

I like the idea of ‘filling the well’ which comes from Julia Cameron’s excellent book ‘The Artist’s Way’.

In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond. We have to maintain this artistic ecosystem. If we don’t…our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant or blocked. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them – to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well. Filling the well involves the active pursuit of images to refresh our artistic reservoirs. In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not do what you should do. Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you: think mystery, not mastery.

Julia Cameron

For me reading, walking, canoeing, being in nature, being with friends, gardening, cooking, listening to music, visiting a museum or art gallery, travel, walking on a beach, these are all ways to fill the well and get my creative juices flowing again.

How do you fill the well?


And now to do some actual work and tick something off my to-do list 😉

Career, work life balance and creativity coaching – my coaching page is now live!

I’ve put it here on my blog for now, it may stay here or it might move to a separate website, I don’t know yet. As long as it doesn’t interfere with my ability to post poems and other posts whenever the inspiration takes hold, then it will stay here and this will morph into my coaching / writing / art website. Let’s see what happens.

The focus of the next few months for me is all about growing my coaching business, now that I have a little bit more time to take on more clients. I’m not sure if it’s the best time to be doing this, in the midst of a pandemic, but I’ll find out!

A favour

I would like to start to spread the word about my coaching services beyond my immediate networks.

If you know anyone who might be looking for a career change, wanting to improve their work life balance, to have more time for creative projects or generally looking for a new direction in life, then please could you share the link to the coaching page (https://lifeinthefreshair.com/career-work-life-balance-and-creativity-coaching/) with them.

And of course, if you are interested in coaching, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks very much!

Lost for words

I have been

lost

for words.


I have started so many blog posts recently but they just haven’t flowed. There is so much to say, yet the words get stuck.

In March I did my observed coaching assessment, I watched the pandemic spread as clients and coaches from around the world all entered lockdown at slightly different times, with slightly different rules. Coaching topics changed from things like ‘I’d like to get fitter’ or ‘how can I deal with x situation at work’, by week 2 of the assessment it was all about ‘how can I complete my work and homeschool my kids’, ‘ how can I make sure the underprivileged kids at the school I work in still get free school meals once the school closes, ‘what should I do now I can no longer run my business’. Staying centred enough to coach while being observed and assessed in the middle of all that was a challenge, somehow all 6 of us going through the assessment month all passed. What an achievement! At the end of it all I wanted to do was sleep.

And while all that was going on my work changed so I was full time working from home, only allowed out for one daily walk, and for essential shopping and healthcare.

Each day on my walk, it was as if spring had flicked a paintbrush overnight at the gardens, the verges and the woods. A splattering of colour at the beginning of March has turned into the full kaleidoscope of May.

And it is so peaceful here in the village. Hardly any cars on the roads, not as much noise as usual, fewer strimmers, lawnmowers, power tools, building work. The birds have taken over. This is what it must have been like pre-car, pre-industrial revolution, the soundtrack of most of human history. I love it. We have been lucky, the weather for most of the lockdown has been lovely and I’ve spent hours in the garden.

After the observed coaching month I then had to do a written exam, record a half hour coaching session for assessment, finish coursework. It’s all done now and hopefully I’ll graduate from the course at the end of May.

And now I have more time! Without really planning to, I’ve been painting. Experimenting with mixed media. Not really the kind of things I usually do, but I’m pleased with the results. So much fun to paint!

I had set today aside to start looking for more coaching clients. Instead I went for a longer daily walk than usual, pottered around the garden, finished my painting, wrote this. The goal of building my coaching business is important to me, but so is rest, relaxation, creativity. Attempting to find balance in the midst of a pandemic.

I hope you are keeping well and finding ways to cope with the situation we are all in. I know some of you have been writing through the last few months and I have enjoyed reading your posts.

Morning tai chi in the garden

It takes longer than usual

to reach the place

where there is just

movement,

birdsong,

and spring sunshine.

The calm beneath

the crisis

is here,

waiting.

From drifting to steering

I’ve been thinking about that moment when we take control of something in our lives.  Perhaps something we’ve dreamed about for years.  The shift in perspective that occurs when we go from thinking, for example, ‘one day I’d like to write a novel’ to actually sitting down to write the first page.  And the one after that, and the one after that.

The moment when we realise….

‘If I want to make that thing happen then I have to DO something!’

I’m sure this is easy for many people, but for me, I like to dream and think about what I might like to do but I get stuck in the realities of life (earning a living etc) and often I don’t get round to doing what I want to do!

Also I have to write about creating a shift in perspective for one of my coaching assignments, so this is also me mulling over some ideas.   I’d love to know your thoughts.


To drift: to move slowly, especially as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction.

Sometimes we drift through our lives, at the mercy of the currents and winds.  Sharp rocks and shipwrecks may await, or, less dramatically but potentially as serious, a lifetime of drifting into unsatisfactory jobs, or not quite ever getting around to doing what we really want to do.  We follow the currents of other people’s beliefs and values, other people’s ‘shoulds’, never quite getting where we really want to go.  Perhaps not even aware of where we really want to go.

And often we drift with a head full of dreams.  Our body is sitting in an open plan office in front of a computer, our head is filled with possibilities.  ‘Perhaps I’ll become an artist’.  ‘Maybe I could go self-employed’.  ‘Maybe I’ll pack it all in and go and live on a desert island’.  But we never do.

So much of our energy is focused on dreaming, on thinking, on imagining, on future possibilities, but these thoughts don’t turn into action. Looking inward, looking to something that only exists in our minds, talking about it maybe (perhaps talking about it endlessly!) but never doing.  Never changing, never growing, just…stuck in our heads.  And drifting.

And sometimes we drift with no dreams at all.  We plod along a course that we haven’t chosen, frustrated.  Drifting on the currents of life, we see no way out.

And then something happens.  Maybe we get too close to those dangerous rocks.  Perhaps a storm brings a clarifying splash of icy cold water.

Maybe we just can’t face another day at that job.   A significant birthday.  A death.  A birth. A deadline.

A shift in perspective.

This is the moment when we realise….

‘If I want to make change happen then I have to DO something.  Now!’

This is when we take control.

Now we are not drifting, we are steering.

We take the helm.  We take responsibility.

We take our boredom with our current lives seriously.

We take our dreams seriously.

We commit to change.

We take action.

To steer a course or path: to take a series of actions, usually of a particular type, carefully and intentionally.

At first, steering may look just like drifting to the outside observer.  Outwardly, nothing may change.  We may still be at the boring job, but unseen by the world we are now making plans, researching, taking action.

We question.  Is this really want I want to do?  What is it that I believe?  Where do I really want to be in 5 years’ time?  What does success look like to me…not to my mother or my work colleagues or society….to me?

We may appear to drift around for a while, trying out new ideas, but the difference is that our movement is purposeful to us.  We are deliberately choosing our direction.

We make goals and we take the steps that we need to make those goals happen.

We go from saying ‘maybe I could do xyz’, or ‘I’d love to do xyz but it’s not possible because….’ To ‘it is possible and I will take the steps I need to take to make it happen.

It might not be easy.  It will probably take courage and determination to make changes.  We might want to give up.  We might need support.

But now we know.  If we want change, we need to take action.

How does this shift in perspective happen?

So often the thing that shifts us from drifting to steering comes from outside of us.  For example, a deadline, a divorce, redundancy.  How do we move ourselves from drifting to steering without one of these external influences?

I think there are several ways, including becoming aware that we are drifting through life, that we are doing something we don’t really want to be doing and not taking our dreams seriously.   We could explore our own beliefs and values, to see if they match the life we are living.  A powerful excercise can be to explore our dreams and create a vision of the future that motivates us to make it happen.  We can structure our lives so we can more easily do the thing we want to do (eg set aside time each day to write, if writing a novel is the dream).


What about you?

I’m really interested to know what has moved you from drifting to steering.

Have you had the experience of having some dream that you wanted to do ‘one day’, but that you didn’t ever get round to doing, perhaps because you were too busy, or you didn’t think it was possible?  And then you did start to do it?  What was the thing that made you take action?

Or are you stuck right now, wondering how to steer a course towards your dreams?

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