Every day, many times every day, you come to a fork in the road and you get to choose which path to take.
This article describes the two paths as Should and Must and the author’s experiences (it’s a bit lengthy but definitely worth the read).
I’ll be explaining the different path, five steps to knowing and one important thing to take away.
Should is based on the expectations of others, it’s the one you’re supposed to follow, it’s the path society wants you to take.
Must is your true path, the one where you follow your instincts, where you live to your values and are fully authentic. It’s when you stop conforming to others’ expectations and start connecting to your soul.
Should is easy, but you’ll be miserable.
Must is hard, it will take some inner soul searching but you’ll be happier than you ever imagined you could be without children.
Think about it, what’s the Should path for us? In my experience, it’s staying quiet (and miserable), taking a lower priority than mothers, listening silently and endlessly to stories about children whilst wanting to say ‘what about me?’ And most importantly it’s about staying small, never knowing who you really are.
Imagine for a moment that you took that path, your life stays the same, and you always feel the same as you do now.
How appealing is that?
And Must? It’s about being truly and authentically you, it’s having the confidence and ability to speak out about your story should you wish to and being able to deal with any reply. It’s the path of growth; of expanding your comfort zone, of feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin. It may have taken some hard work to get there, but it’s oh so worth it.
Imagine that you took the path to authenticity and, although you can remember your dreams of motherhood and what you’ve been through they no longer have the power to hurt you. Isn’t that more appealing?
Ok I get it, how do I get in touch with my true path?
A few years ago I stood at a major crossroads, the Should path was clear and pointing straight to sadness. I could see another path, but it was very faint and I had no idea where it was heading. I took it only because I knew I didn’t want the other. It was a leap of faith and a bit of a slalom, but my life is so much richer because of it.
Now, when my path is unclear I use this five step process and before I explain it, here’s some background on how we make decisions.
We make decisions in three different ways.
When you make decisions with your head, you’re using intellect, logic, rationality and analysis. It’s also where fear lives so it’s where you invent all the reasons not to and where you talk yourself out of things.
When you make decisions with your heart, you’re using emotion, feeling and empathy. When feelings are the deciding factor, that’s when you stay stuck longer than necessary and make choices you end up regretting.
Your gut is your intuition, when you “just know.” It’s the internal, certain, unexplainable “knowing” which gives you calm and certainty about something. When your gut/intuition is leading these are the moments when you’re absolutely certain about something.
So let’s say you get invited to a christening; your intuition says ‘don’t go’ then your head comes up with reasons why you should and your heart chips in telling you that your family want you to go. So you do and end up getting upset. Sound familiar?
And there’s one more factor to consider.
Your Core Values
I’ve written about core values previously so all I will say here is that they are your north star, your guiding light and the true expression of who you are. They are, therefore the path of Must.
We each have a preference and we normally only consult one or two, however our best decisions are made when we take time to consult all four.
So here’s my simple five step process to knowing what path to take.
Five Steps to knowing.
How many times do you rush headlong into something without really considering it? This is me. I decide quickly, sometimes too quickly according to my husband who, let’s just say likes to evaluate options a number of times…. Sometimes my decisiveness is because my intuition has taken over, other times it’s because I prefer the certainty of having decided (even if it’s not the perfect decision) rather than uncertainty. I continue to work on f pausing and it’s still a struggle sometimes.
2. What does my head say?
Put your hand on your head and then say out loud what your head ‘says/feels’ about the decision/situation.
3. What does my heart say?
Now put your hand on your heart and say what your heart feels about it. Be still and take a moment to really listen to your heart.
4. What does my gut say?
And you know what’s coming now, with a hand on your gut voice what your intuition is telling you.
5. And my values?
By now you’ll have a pretty good idea as to which way feels right and, as a final check, ask yourself ‘will this take me closer to my values, or further away?’ or ‘which way will take me closer to who I really am?’
If you’re thinking that this sounds a bit odd, and you’re not sure that putting your hand anywhere is going to feel any different, I ask that you give it a go, and then decide whether how well it works. Here’s an example of how well it recently worked for me.
How this works in practice.
I usually decide in my gut and then my head takes over, coming up with many reasons not to do what I just decided. This happened recently when I my gut said yes to a great opportunity and then the doubts set in (sound familiar?).
My head came up with lots of reasons why I shouldn’t take it, my gremlin was shouting phrases like ‘you’re not good enough’ and ‘who do you think you are? I felt completely deflated and struck with massive self-doubts until I remembered and then followed this process.
My heart and gut both said yes, and felt quite emotional if I’m honest. And yes was certainly in tune with my values and who I want to be. The problem was in my head. Part said yes, and part no. On delving a bit deeper I realised that both parts wanted the same thing for me – joy and peace. However they were going about it in different ways – the no part by protecting me, keeping me safe and keeping me small. And the yes route was via expansion and growth.
So it had to be yes and following these five steps gave me the confidence to follow what my intuition had told me in the first place.
And now for the good news.
Deciding which path to take is not a one-time decision, it’s something you’ll be deciding over and over again, every day and sometimes many times a day. So you don’t have to follow your heart today, tomorrow, this year, or ever.
It’s not about a big leap, it’s by taking small steps every day that get you to your destination.
I don’t follow my path every day, some days I’ll decide to take the easy road, others I’m true to me.
You can continue on the path of ‘Should’ but you know it will lead to sadness.
If you take away one thing
Let it be this, make time to pause so that you can listen to your heart and be prepared to follow what it says.
Over to you
If there are other ways that have helped you to find your true path, please share them below, other women would love to hear them (you can use a different name if you would like to).