I can’t think of many things scarier than reaching a crossroad in your life. You know, that turning point where you need to make some big changes and decisions—or else. Usually, we don’t reach crossroads out of the blue. But that doesn’t make it any easier.
No matter how long you’ve known that a turning point was coming, staring it in the face takes your breath away. You can no longer ignore the facts: what you’ve been doing up to this point (if anything) isn’t working, it is no longer an option, or it is making matters worse—and you must do something about it now. But what exactly do you do? And how? And when? And where? The answers aren’t exactly staring you in the face; and even when they are it’s not so easy to take heed.
What Counts as a Crossroad
Each person will face his or her individual turning points in life. They won’t all be necessarily bad or good. Maybe you’re at a crossroad in your life right now and you don’t need any examples; but I’ll give a few anyway.
- You get fired or laid off from your job
- You’re offered the promotion of your dreams, but the required travel will cause problems at home
- You’re miserable with the business into which you invested all your time and money
- You’ve lost faith in the religion of your childhood
- You’re facing an unplanned pregnancy
- Someone you depend on leaves or passes away
- You’re afraid of commitment, but the person you love says, “Marry me or lose me.”
- You are required to either lose your job or relocate far away from everything you love
- Your adult child is suffering immensely because of your enabling
- Your only skill-set has become obsolete (or it’s much less in demand)
- Your spouse is ready to file for a divorce
We all dread these types of situations and nobody can tell you (for sure) the right thing to do. But there is something that you definitely do not want to do. That something is… nothing.
Have you ever seen a deer stunned by headlights? It panics as the vehicle speeds toward it in the dark of night. It’s blinded by a combination of bright lights and paralyzing fear. It can go left or right, forward or backward. It can sprint, leap, walk or turn around. But what does it do? Unfortunately, all too often, Bambi stands frozen in place as 4,000 pounds of metal smash right into her. I know, I know…it’s a sadly dramatic example. Nonetheless, life’s turning points can be the same way for us.
When it’s time to make a move and you stand there doing nothing, you pretty much get run over. Instead of making things happen, doing nothing just lets them happen to you. This sucks for so many reasons, but primarily because it is not living.
In life, we will deal with the consequences of both our actions and inactions. There’s no getting out of that. However, living is taking an active role. It is sitting in the driver’s seat of your life—deciding which way to turn, who to take with you, what path to follow. This is not a trip that you want to sleep through.
Moving Past the Crossroads
If you’re miserable with your career, do something (other than complain) about it. If you’re “trapped” in a broken relationship that’s falling apart, do something. If you receive a bad diagnosis from the doctor, do something about that too. No matter what the situation is, you do not have to just stand there in a daze. Forget about what you cannot do anything about. It doesn’t matter what you could’ve or should’ve done yesterday, last week, last year, or whenever. What matters is right now.
Yes, you may wish the situation wasn’t there. You may wish you had more choices or more time to think about what to do next. You wish you’d known back then what you know now, or that you’d grown up with different parents, or followed your gut instincts. Maybe you just wish your life had a rewind button that you could press at your leisure. But all the wishing in the world can’t change where you are right now. This is your life at the moment. Many things have brought you to this point and many will help you to move past it. Just trust that you have what it takes.
What will you do when you reach a crossroads in your life?
Are you too self-conscious to risk looking stupid, failing, or suffering embarrassment? Too proud to ask for help? Too afraid to take risks or face your fears? Too filled with self-doubt to tap into energy reserves that you didn’t know were there? Do it anyway!
Push yourself to make a move, even if it’s the wrong one. If you make a mistake, embrace the lesson and celebrate yourself for having the courage to learn and to live your life.
Reaching a crossroad in life is never comfortable, but it’s also not the end of the road. It’s a time of uncertainty and challenge, which forces us out to the very edge. It is here that we show what we’re made of. And it is here that we are made anew.
Photo credit: Jano De Cesare
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