Several weeks ago when I was feeling in a fog and not knowing what direction to go, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. What he told me has stuck with me since: I don’t need to know any more than what the next step is.
Frequently in the fog, we can see a few feet ahead, but not much further. When you’re driving a car and going fast, being able to only see a few feet ahead is dangerous. But if you’re on foot, being able to see a few feet ahead shows you where you will be putting your foot in your next step. It’s enough to be able to know whether or not taking the next step will be safe.
The same is true metaphorically. When I’m feeling in a fog, and can’t see my ultimate destination, I don’t want to be racing ahead as if I’m in a car. I want to move slowly and deliberately, as if I were on foot in a fog. All I really need to know is where to place my foot for that next step.
What triggered the fog for me most recently was the idea that I am meant to move away from Seattle. In fact, what came to me is that I am meant to move to Edinburgh, Scotland.
When I began contemplating this, I immediately became very anxious and worried. How would my mother and my son react to me moving to another country? Should I sell my house or rent it out? What about my car? And my cats – could I take them with me?
And on and on and on. Lots of things to worry about.
When my friend put out this idea of not needing to know more than the next step, I immediately relaxed. I knew that the next step was to visit Edinburgh for a prolonged period of time to see if I really did want to move there.
So I decided on a timeframe when I could spend a month in Edinburgh, and booked a flight and a room. That was my next step. Nothing else needed to be done in the meantime, because until I made the visit I didn’t even know for sure that Edinburgh would be my ultimate destination. There was no point in worrying about the logistics of moving there yet.
Over the next week after I booked my trip I still had thoughts popping up about the logistics of moving. But each time one of these thoughts came into my head – and I noticed when this happened because I would begin to feel anxious – I told myself that I didn’t need to know that yet.
I can’t tell you what a relief this was! I didn’t have to know that yet! I could choose to think about that sometime in the future when it was more appropriate.
What about you? Is there a situation in your life right now where you’re not really sure of the ultimate destination? Are you worrying about the fact that you don’t know where you’re going – or worrying about how to get to the destination that is not even clear to you yet?
If this is true for you, try this:
- Ask yourself where you’re trying to go.
- If you know your destination, ask yourself what is the next step that will lead you in that direction.
- If you aren’t clear on your destination (for example, wondering whether you should stay in your current career, or go back to school for a different career), ask yourself what is the next step that will help to bring clarity on your destination.
- Quit worry, ruminating, mulling over. You know what your next step is. You don’t need to know more yet.
- Feel the relief of not having to know all the answers right now!