Forging Your Own Path
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“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.”  –Bill Bullard

Three recent incidents have me thinking about what it takes to forge your own path:

  • My goddaughter started college.
  • My grandson started kindergarten.
  • An acquaintance asked if I was ready to start dating because she had “someone in mind for me”. (The answer is no!)

We all experience new chapters in our full lives – not sure where we’re going or how it will work out, but setting out with hope and maybe a little trepidation. There isn’t always a roadmap or a clear path to follow, so we have to figure out how to proceed.   

I’ve noticed that well-intentioned people often offer unsolicited opinions and advice, and/or share details about their own experiences to those entering a new chapter. I honestly believe this is an effort to connect around a topic, but offering ideas and suggestions when someone isn’t ready or interested actually weakens the connection. In my case, the acquaintance kept trying to convince me to date because her other widowed friends had found love again, even though I clearly stated I wasn’t interested. Her “good intentions” felt intrusive and aggressive. What was missing was empathy – listening, asking questions and understanding what I wanted and felt.

The next time you’re tempted to offer unsolicited advice or share your experience with someone forging a new path…STOP

  • Slow down and listen for understanding. Be “earnest”–fully present and sincere, genuinely tuned in so they feel heard & understood.
  • Try to ask questions instead of providing answers: What are you excited about? What concerns do you have? What steps are you taking? How can I help?
  • Offer an opinion or idea only after asking if it’s okay.
  • Practice empathy, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. Don’t presume you know what they need or want. This is about them and their experience, not about you.

Conversely, you might be the one starting a new chapter. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with possibilities, get in a rut or get mired in the muck of fears and obstacles. If you find yourself stuck, here are some ways to START forging your own path.

  • Self-knowledge: Know what’s important to you; what you want; what’s okay and what’s not okay. Identify your strengths and potential obstacles.
  • Target/intention: What is your end goal? What word or phrase can express that goal and your commitment to carrying out that goal?
  • Accountability: Think about how you’ve gotten through tough times in that past – how can you draw on those experiences now? How can you keep going when the going gets tough? How can you articulate the path you’re taking and why that path? How will you address pushback or challenges from those who doubt you? How can you let those who offer unsolicited advice or ideas know what you need and don’t need?
  • Resources: Who are the top 5 people who can support you–listening to you vent frustration, challenging you to push harder, and celebrating progress along the path. How can you ask for their help? What services can you access as needed?
  • Tactics: What steps will you take – how, when? Identify milestones along your path to reflect, recalibrate as necessary, and recharge before you press on.

This is your life, not someone else’s life. START forging your own path, which will foster greater confidence and satisfaction in whatever you choose to do.

STOP trying to forge paths for others. Instead practice empathy as they create their own way forward. Suspending one’s ego can be difficult, but listening and being earnest will actually foster connections with others. Not only can you help them, you can learn something about them and yourself in the process—a win for both of you in this game of life.

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2 Comments

  1. Deb,
    Love the blog message! Great content.

  2. Beautifully said – thank you!

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