The changing of the seasons can create a natural chance for careful contemplation. Talking with a mentor or an old friend can foster a feeling of reflection. Reading words from philosophers, prophets and poets can launch a hopeful exploration of life’s possibilities. In our hurried and harried world, which compounds current cares and stressors, we often miss these moments and the insight, inspiration and direction they can provide.
This week I recorded a radio interview with someone who regularly sends me on journeys of contemplation, reflection and exploration. Even just hearing his voice, listening to him speak or reading his masterfully crafted words ignites my imagination and propels me onto an internal quest, or perhaps more accurately, a virtual walk with a friend. We share a common love of England, particularly remote but magical places like the villages of Downham and Chatburn. Ever since our conversation my mind has returned to the lessons learned on such adventures.
My mind returned to a trip through England many years ago. I was mesmerized by the many magnificent portals, passageways and paths that seemed to appear at every point of the journey. The portals were present in the doors, archways and entrances to the great architectural structures and ancient cathedrals. The passageways appeared through side alleys, in a labyrinth of corridors, hallways and walkways between buildings. The paths led through parks and gardens, along rivers and across bridges.
Together they created an almost magical, metaphorical setting from which to explore not only the majestic cities and mystical country sides but, more importantly, to begin a journey through the heart and soul of what matters most on the excursion called life.
As the crispness of the autumn air and the beauty of fall foliage emerge, you may want to take a journey yourself. As you review your trip toward the peaks and mountaintops of peace of mind, professional achievement and personal fulfillment, you might consider the meaning of the portals, passageways and paths you encounter along the way.
Portals represent the big decisions in life. They are momentous and should be approached with great care. Stepping through the portal of choosing a college, picking a career, marrying the person of your dreams, moving to a new city, changing careers, starting a new business, ending a bad relationship — all of these are examples of important portals in our lives.
We should always approach portals with respect for the challenge and the significance of the choice, but never with fear and trepidation. Some portals cannot be anticipated and seem to appear from out of thin air as a new challenge or opportunity. It is also important to recognize that it is never a good idea to hang around portals. Lingering is a trap that creates uncertainty and ultimately leads to poor choices. When presented with a portal, we should assess, decide and then move on. If the portal is not right for you, get going! If it is right for you, get going faster and go through it.
If you are looking back or lingering just inside, you will miss the opportunity the portal contains. There are times when you need to get out of a portal, which is fine and to be expected, but recognize that the way out is not to go back, rather it is to continue to moving forward until a new portal appears.
President Russell M. Nelson, the 96 year-old leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, understands the power of portal moments and how doors open and close in our lives. As he visited with members of the faith in Montevideo, Uruguay, he was asked if it was difficult for him to leave behind his extraordinary, pioneering medical career when he was called to full-time church service as an apostle. President Nelson didn’t hesitate in his response. He said, “I walked through the door into a new room and closed the other door behind me.” Life is filled with portals and doors. How we approach them can determine our destiny.
Passageways require strategy and the ability to navigate your way through, over and around obstacles, challenges or opportunities. Passageways are best represented in our goals, how we plan and how we execute that plan.
I am convinced that the best way to navigate the passageways of life and business is in 90-day frames. It is a long enough period of time that you can achieve something significant and yet short enough to be strategic with the necessary urgency to act now. Whether steering your way along a career-goal passageway, or navigating your way, like the mariner, through the twisting tides and jagged rocks of an important relationship passageway, you are in control and the results will reflect the choices you make.
Passageways require you to plan first and then adapt your plan to deal with current conditions and unexpected moments. Passageways always take you somewhere — there is simply no standing still, no waiting it out and no hoping your current positioning is good enough. Because passageways lead to new and often unfamiliar places, many put off starting.
Pace is also important for passageways as traveling too fast may lead to costly mistakes in navigation or sap needed energy for the long haul. Traveling too slow may cause you to miss an important rendezvous, opportunity or even a date with destiny. Strategic thinking, planning and preparation will guide you through the passageways ahead.
Paths are simply the way you travel. Paths seem so simple, yet they are significantly deep and important to your ability to arrive at your desired destination. What is your way of traveling? For example, the path of integrity is a way of traveling — it is how you roll (as my teenager would say). Other paths that drive your way of travel could include excellence, health, service, honesty, humor, faith, listening, compassion, hope, patience, determination, understanding and love, just to name a few.
These paths are really a reflection of the principles, values or character traits that are most important to you. The challenge for most people is that they have never taken the time to write down their path or way of living. By writing them down — and I would encourage you to write a specific definition for each one — you will be able to instantly assess where you are and where you need to go next. In other words, you will be able to determine if your current actions are in harmony or are congruent with the principles, values, and character traits you have chosen as your path or way of traveling.
If you don’t know how you roll, you will roll into bad places and spaces and get rolled over by prevailing trends, trials, opinions or even the actions of others. Knowing your path will provide you the confidence you need to successfully travel through any portal or passageway.
Portals, passageways and paths, virtual or otherwise, can lead to critical journeys of contemplation, reflection and exploration. In a period of pandemic and uncertainty, perhaps taking time this week amid the changing seasons will create a better perspective for the future. As you evaluate your current course, you can begin to transform your daily travels into the adventure of a lifetime and ultimately into a life-long odyssey of meaning and impact. Happy traveling.