I have lived on the road for long stretches of my life. I have driven North, South, East, West and all the way around again. I think I drove cross-country six times and I can't even count how many times I have driven up and down the East and West coasts. After my last long stretch of traveling, I calculated that I had lived in 35 different places within a two year period. You pick up certain tricks and tools when you live on the road. Some of these protect your life and some of these protect your joy. One of the most important rules of the road is this:
Never ask a person for directions if they haven't been to the place where you want to be.
This may sound simple but each one of us breaks this rule on a regular basis. We ask for physical directions from strangers without knowing if they can provide us with correct information and then we trust what they say. On a much larger scale, we also ask for life direction from people who have never done what we want to do and that is where it gets really tricky. Lately, I have been musing about my next steps and have been met with an overwhelming amount of fear and resistance from those I spoke with. At first, I was convinced that they were right and that these ideas of mine should be abandoned. But every morning when I woke there the ideas would be sitting on the edge of my bed again asking me to reconsider, take a chance and live.
As humans, we are programmed with a negativity bias. Negativity bias is defined as the tendency for humans to pay more attention or give more weight to negative experiences over neutral or positive experiences. Even when negative experiences are inconsequential, humans tend to focus on the negative. Negativity bias has kept us alive all these years. It protects us from danger and greatly increases our chances of survival but it also impacts our ability to see hope and the potential for joy in our decision-making process. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky explore this in prospect theory. To summarize: when presented with a situation where you may gain or lose something depending on the outcome, more value is placed on potential costs versus potential gains.
Think back to the last time you were at a major crossroad in your life. Perhaps you were on the brink of making an internal change, professional change or a geographical change and were in need of a sounding board to explore your options. Did you tell anyone? Did you mull it over and over again in your own head until you were about to explode? Did the voice of "reason" wake you up in the middle of the night? Did hope breakthrough with inspiration in tow? Which voice was the loudest?
For me, it is always the voice that says "You are going to ruin your life. Things may not be great but they are not terrible right now. If you make this next move you will be ruined financially, emotionally isolated and homeless with no resources. Stay put. Stay quiet, Suck it up." That voice is brutal, cold, harsh and a liar. But I love that voice because it forces me to ask myself the hard questions. That voice pushes me to see all the possibilities and to acknowledge my own strengths should the going get tough.
Life never seems to slow down or get boring for me and this morning as I write this piece I find that I am once again at a crossroads. None of my options are terrible but which one do I choose and who do I turn to for directions? Today as I remember the words of the great soul traveler and cosmos tripper, Terence McKenna, I will turn my face in the direction of my next rebirth. I will ask the heavens for a little magic, encouragement, and luck and inhale a heroic dose of faith as I take my next steps.
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it's a feather bed.”
― Terence McKenna