Jeremy Côté

Going On A Journey

There are points in our lives where we can feel that we are at a junction. Sometimes, we can only notice this after the fact, but there are instances in which it is clear. At those points, we are faced with a choice. Do we continue on, or do we retreat?

In the abstract, we all know the answer. “Continue!” But that’s much easier said than done. Even if it is clear to everyone (particularly yourself) that the “right” move is to continue forward, this doesn’t make it easier to execute. That’s because, in the moment, we have a multitude of thoughts swirling around that make us second-guess ourselves.

*What if I fail?

What if I find out this isn’t for me?

What if I’m exposed as a fraud?*

It’s tempting to think that there are some people who are immune to this. We see them in our lives, we note their self-confidence and certainty in their actions, and we assume that they have everything under control. They aren’t asking themselves these questions, so why do I get stuck with them in my head?

Unfortunately, that’s not often the case.

I appreciate that my life is more comfortable than most. I have a stable living situation, I’m doing well in my education, and I don’t have financial issues. By most students’ standards, I’m in a good spot. And yet, I have these thoughts all the time. I’m not even close to immune to them. Rather, it sometimes feels like I ponder these questions more than others.

I don’t know if that’s true (after all, we can’t know what goes on in the minds of others), but these thoughts have given me an appreciation that anyone can be susceptible to worries and negative thoughts. This has allowed me to accept two things. First, it gives me a reason to be kinder to myself when I am stuck with these negative thoughts, because I know I’m not the only one. Second, it allows me to empathize with others. Even if we can’t see these thoughts in others, many are dealing with them.

This brings us to the journey. I’ve heard people talk about difficult parts of their own journey and, barring extraordinary circumstances, my usual thought is, “This doesn’t seem so bad.” And then I realize that the reason they were struggling with these decisions and events was mostly due to their thoughts. The events themselves weren’t too difficult to navigate if an outsider had to make a decision. It’s only when the person involved has to decide, with all of their emotional attachment to the affair, that things get difficult.

The journey itself probably isn’t the difficult part that’s stopping you from doing the work that you want to do. Instead, it’s the thoughts surrounding the journey that introduce complications.

I’ve been at the chasm, having to decide to leap forward or retreat. Even though I knew the “correct” answer was to go forward, the difficult part was bringing my thoughts in line with this reality. That’s the work, particularly if the journey involves a big change in life.

My best strategy for dealing with this is to appreciate that your thoughts can be changed, and they will tinge your memory of the journey. Each time you feel a nagging worry, tell yourself to instead “be curious”. If you can approach a new situation with curiosity, it can make everything a whole lot easier.

The journey is worth going on. Don’t let you thoughts hold you back from it.