I often refer to my life path as the road less traveled. I use this phrase to embody the experiences and accomplishments I’ve had that would typically be considered out of the norm for someone of my race and gender. I’ve encountered many reactions, both positive and negative, along the way. I remember the jaw dropped face of the woman at the NC State bookstore when I went to pick up my academic regalia for graduation as I told her my school and degree (College of Engineering, PhD). I also remember the overflowing audience attending a session that my business partners and I held on Entrepreneurship at a mathematics conference. For better or worse, they are all a part of my journey on the road less traveled.
I believe that many of us have an opportunity to follow our own road less traveled. This could be entering a very unique occupation or lifestyle (think eating only raw foods, for example), diverging from what our family and friends may ‘expect’ from us, or taking an unpopular stand for something we believe in. In any case, the road less traveled can be a very hard decision to make and stick with, but as Robert Frost so eloquently told us “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Choosing that road less traveled can be the difference between a mediocre life and a great life. Here are 5 tips to help you discover and maneuver your own road less traveled in the New Year.
- Don’t let fear hold you back. The biggest stumbling block for most is fear. Fear shows up in many forms in our lives: doubt, anxiety, worry, etc. It stops many of us in our tracks as we look down that daunting road with very few travelers. It seems so much easier to follow the crowd down the ‘normal’, well-tested path. The first step is to recognize and acknowledge your fear so you can address it head on.
- Connect with your passion. Remember those things you did as a child that you could do for hours with sheer joy? Those are telltale signs of things you’re innately passionate about. What things or topics excite you? What can you talk about all day and night and never get bored? What activity can hold your interest for hours on end? Connecting with your true passion will take you to the edge of your road less traveled.
- Set aside personal time. We are all busy people. It’s very easy to get caught up in the daily grind of life and all of its demands, but you have to commit to take time for yourself. In this time, you can focus on your goals and interests as well as rejuvenating your mind, body, and soul. It is in this time that you can identify and navigate your own road less traveled. Remember, you can’t be at your best for those around you if you don’t take care of yourself.
- Share with your trusted circle. It’s very helpful to share your hopes and dreams with people who are truly in your corner. This could be family, friends, colleagues, or others who are a source of positive support. It’s very important to know who’s in this trusted circle to avoid being bombarded with negative and deflating feedback. You may have a wonderfully loving parent who is not a part of your trusted circle for your dream to become an actor. But perhaps your acting coach is a part of your circle. You can’t share your dreams with everyone, but that trusted circle can help you solidify a plan of action and hold you accountable.
- Dare to dream big. Don’t let the boundaries of your personal experiences and circumstances hold you back from greatness. Just because you’ve never run a business and none of your family or friends has either doesn’t mean it’s out of your reach. We all know that there are millions of people out there doing it every day! You may have to take extra time to learn the basics compared to the person who worked in and eventually took over their family business, but that is just your path. Everything you experience on your path will add to who you are and what you become. Don’t limit yourself…be the best you that you can be!