There are three types of people in this world.
- Those who do no harm as we navigate our life path.
- Those who pull us up to a new purpose-filled life path.
- Those who pull us down to a dreary, frustrated life path.
Whether we recognize it at the time, there are people we encounter who can help or hurt us. The offers may sound equally enticing, yet the motives or the real direction may be questionable. When things sound too good, they usually are. When the scheme seems too fast, it may be just that – a fast one, no redeeming value.
There are potholes we come to as we move along our “normal” life path. Although we can more easily recover from these, when a person comes along and offers a different path for us to take, this is where real change can happen.
I’ll take the high road.
On the upper paths, we can call them mentors, game-changers, coaches, or bosses. They come in different forms, but they all extend a hand to lift us up to a new view, a new career path, or a renewed direction.
New paths can come in the form of events, too. Events can include a new college degree, a mission trip, or some other life-enhancing experience, opening a window to new life opportunities.
Even on the renewed life paths, we carry a responsibility to continue to move upward and forward with the opportunity given. It is our responsibility to continue to improve our interactions, our work, ourselves, and our community.
The low road looks fun.
On the lower paths, we can call them disingenuous, slick, or evil. Their real intent is to see us remain stagnant in our personal growth or, worse, lead us into a decline. Their pitch may sound wonderful, and the immediate sensation may feel great. But, the outcome is miserable.
In these lower paths, it can be the substances offered by others as well, which just quickens a downward spiral in life. How many life recovery stories do we need to read or experience until we realize that alcohol and drugs just don’t make our lives better?
Once on the lower paths, getting back to a normal or an upper life path escalates in challenge and requires an enduring mind, body, and spirit. It can be done. We just have work a lot harder to do.
As we stroll along our life paths, these are the encounters we have, and we need to make a choice. We can choose to stay on our normal path or make the shift to a new path, high or low.
Looking back over the years, my story may be lackluster, yet there were at least three life path jumps I have experienced. The first was an opportunity to work for Senator Jim Abdnor. I have written before how his extended hand enabled a completely new direction in my life. It transpired over seven-plus years, ending with an experience of a lifetime working in The White House.
Another is returning to school to get my MBA from The University of Texas at Austin. After I realized that politics was not part of my life plan, I needed to get on a different path and going back to school was the ticket. A former professor from Augustana College provided me a boost on to this path. Almost twenty years later, my business career is still unfolding, but it has been chockfull of lessons and experiences in leadership, entrepreneurship, and friendship.
I’ll keep the third safe within my thoughts for now. I think you get the idea, though, on how life path jumps work.
Why I said my story may be lackluster is it seems normal at times. I haven’t written the book of all time, taken two years to do mission work, or inspired a Seth Godin-style tribe. However, when I look back warmly on my farm days to where I am now, I cannot help but feel fortunate for the life jumps I have encountered and taken.
What to do?
My advice may be simple.
- Position yourself for the right life jumps. Be active in your community. Make the connections. Use the Soul Spark Checkpoint to see where you stand today.
- Discern the opportunity and the people extending their hand. Ensure the intentions are good, and they are truly trying to pull you up rather than weigh you down.
- Don’t jump just to jump. Think about the life choices being made and the path’s possibilities. Ensure it is going in a meaningful, purpose-filled direction.
- Make sure of the impact of your life jump, not only on yourself but your family as well. Life path jumps create ripples, so it is important to ensure the ripples resonate with all and don’t create un-needed rough and choppy waters.
Life path jumps are vital to how our purpose unfolds. It is more than being just about us, however. Another viewpoint is how have we delivered life path jumps to others? This may be a harder challenge, yet it is important for us to play this role when we can.
What life path jumps have you experienced? What is the challenge in discerning the best life path choice?