What if we’re not on a path?

Sometimes, it's better to sit with uncertainty
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

I found this concise and eloquent post on Rob Poynton’s blog: Walk the line.

He challenges the way we often see our lives as following a path, in which one step leads to another. Most organisations and education systems take this view as a given. Rob argues that it’s not reality, but simply a metaphor – and one that brings many stresses:

It can be a corset, one that stops you thinking in the round about the wealth of different possibilities that lie before you. It pays more attention to where a step leads, than exploring that experience for its own sake. A linear interpretation encourages you to think in narrow terms of qualifications and stepping stones towards a pre-determined goal – it quite literally ‘channels’ your thought. It also creates the pressure to take the ‘right’ step. In defining a path it simultaneously cuts off (or casts doubt on) possibilities that lie off the path, implying that if you take them, you will become ‘side-tracked’ or lost. The emphasis is more on progress than discovery or enjoyment. Overall it implies that you ought to know where you want to go, and that the task is working out how to get there, rather than encouraging you to explore.

What if we see life not as a path, but as a field?

The idea of a field adds dimension. It can also add depth and texture. There are many ways to explore a space or a territory. There is no one path – no forward, no back. One might explore a section, then return to a central point, then head off in another direction. Or, go all around the perimeter. Or hop about. Or go back, repeatedly, to the same place, approaching from different directions at different seasons, or in different moods.

Rob and I have had a lot of conversations about shifting away from a linear view of time. I know that when I makes this switch, it immediately relieves a lot of the stress I can feel around challenges I am facing. Often when we’re stuck it’s because we have become attached to escaping a “problem” towards an imagined solution – yet somehow the solution seems to involve a lot of difficulty and stress. It can make a big difference to linger where we are and see what else is there.

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