Walking the Path Without Knowing the Next Step



by Diana MatthewsCo-host of BeaverTalk

In the world of #riseandgrind, #motivationmonday, and a culture that continues to promote busyness as the benchmark of success, it is a strange thing to wake up - day in and day out - with nowhere in specific to be.

I’m in the process of getting a green card, which means for the time being I’m unable to work for companies based in the United States. It’s been a process with glorious highs and devastating lows, but mostly, it’s been one of deep soul searching that has called upon me to root down into my intentions, desires, and resilience.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the quality of my thoughts, diving into my daily practice of journaling followed by ten minutes of silent meditation. Both of these exercises are part of my regular morning routine but I wanted to focus on them with the intentions of mindfulness and deep introspection, investigating not only how I feel that day but rather, getting honest with myself about my self-talk and where my mind goes when there’s no stimulation to respond to

After about a week of spending time with my own stream of consciousness, two ideas came to the surface - my self-worth and the cultivation of inner peace. Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the way I was speaking to myself throughout each day was riddled with anxiety, judgement, and impatience. These negative emotions that I was hurling at my actions, or perceived inactions, were giving me a low sense of self-worth and showed me that my sense of inner peace is attached to my identity as a contributor - someone who is filled up by working or “doing” and feels at loose ends when there isn’t something to participate in.

I was being hard on myself for not knowing the next step, for feeling lost, and for not being productive on paper. I was expecting myself to know how to “fix” the discomfort I’m in (therefore making the assumption there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed in the first place). I discovered a deeply entrenched belief where I prided myself on being someone who felt she had all the answers. When that sense of pride gave way to a feeling of purposelessness, I replaced it with a story that something was not only wrong with the situation, but profoundly wrong with me.

Comparing ourselves to others is often at the core of our unhappiness. Like everyone, it’s something that’s definitely crept in for me. But it’s not at the heart of where I find myself now. It’s the comparison I’m making to my past self, a woman who I felt always moved forward fearlessly, whether or not she knew the next step. It’s the notion of saying, “C’mon Diana, you’ve been through worse. Figure this out so you can feel in control again.”

But that memory is selective. I’m forgetting how lost and insecure I was back then, too. The steps I took weren’t in the absence of fear but merely look that way because they led to unique and exciting opportunities that I was equipped to take on whole-heartedly.  The woman at that time also had a sense of control and knew the path she was creating, however light and careful her footsteps were. Through every twist and turn, she had faith that she was walking in the right direction.

Much of my discomfort is also caught up in expectations - the shoulds that plague us when we feel we aren’t doing enough. I need to let these go - the expectations I have on others and the expectation I have that this period of transition is going to feel any different than it does. But most importantly, I need to surrender to the expectations I have on myself and how they are based in old stories, old experiences, and old ways of pushing myself forward that no longer serve me.

Evolving calls upon you to remain open to novelty - expanding the boundaries of your comfort zone to let new experiences in and intentionally thrust chaos upon your cultivated sense of reality. You won’t have any guarantees and the truth is you never did. You have only to trust yourself and the process.

You won’t always feel a sense of growth. It won’t always look productive on paper. But all of this is leading you, moving you. You are motion because you are a breathing and conscious life. Inhale and exhale knowing the cycle will repeat itself. This is the force of life and it is anything but stagnate.

It feels scary right now because I can’t see the end. I’m still so in it. But I’ve been here before. The only way out is through. I’ve been far from myself in the past and at other times, felt completely aligned. I’ve had moments of crystal clarity and times when I’ve been wading through the weeds blindfolded. I’ve floated sky high and laid in the fetal position at rock bottom.

We sometimes forget our own cycles. We forget that like the seasons, we too are in flux and have periods where we bloom and times when we hibernate. But through it all, we are resilient. We forget just how many times we have fallen and picked ourselves back up, time and time again without the guarantee that something better is coming. We did so because we trusted that the the payoff itself is in the lessons learned on the way down and the strength it takes to stand back up.

Our power is that we’re here. And our purpose is what we choose to do with that presence. Whether you’re at the top, the bottom, or somewhere in between - that choice is yours every day.

As I listen to my inner monologue, I intend to work at cultivating a sense of inner peace that isn’t derived from “doing” but rather, from being. Practice presence breathing in a yoga class, laughing with a friend over coffee, or sitting with my husband and our cat while we watch TV. My self-worth isn’t dictated by my productivity or identity as a contributor. That’s an old story I told myself to serve an old path. I’m on a new path now and it is evolving, as I am, with every breath.

Get close to your thoughts, the way you speak to yourself and others, and stay with the gradual evolution. These habits are formed over time and when you pay close attention, it is surprising how mean we can truly be to ourselves.

Keep moving. Create the path while you walk it. And be proud of yourself for moving forward without all the answers.