How often do you reflect upon the direction in which you are moving?

Today is October 1 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you reflect upon the direction in which you are moving?” People who navigate the chaos understand that they are not a tree and can switch directions at any moment. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving —we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”

Grinding out the work each day to translate a dream into reality, and then repeating the process for each dream requires movement, or as Holmes noted, ‘we must sail.’ Sailing means direction and those who navigate the chaos understand that necessity is preferable over drifting or being anchored.

If you drift along you lack direction, and without direction it is virtually impossible to progress. If you are anchored down, you carry too much weight to move forward. Sail forward, adjust the sails according to the winds, and reflect upon the direction you are moving so you make the best decisions on how to navigate your path. As motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar noted “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” To realize you lack direction requires self-awareness which in turn demands that you spend time reflecting upon which direction you are moving.

While it is true that other navigate the chaos posts discuss the strategy, value, and purpose of doing nothing, today’s question serves as a reminder the nuances involved with achieving one dream after another. There is simply no one right answer, right path, or right strategy to navigate the chaos of life. Thus, that is why this series contains a unique question for each day of the year. Over the years the questions have been combined, edited, and condensed to make way for new questions. The pursuit of 365 unique questions demonstrates in and of itself the nuances involved with how people succeed.

One of the oft quoted poems regarding direction is Robert Frost’s "The Road Not Taken" published in 1916 as the first poem in the collection Mountain Interval. Frost spent the years 1912 to 1915 in England, where among his acquaintances was the writer Edward Thomas. Thomas and Frost became close friends and took many walks together. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Some commentators have suggested “The Road Not Taken” is one of Frost’s most misunderstood poems, claiming that it is not simply a poem that champions the idea of "following your own path," but instead, it expresses some irony regarding such idea. For example, a New York Times book review on Brian Hall's 2008 biography Fall of Frost states: "Whichever way they go, they're sure to miss something good on the other path."

Regarding the "sigh" that is mentioned in the last stanza, it may be interpreted as an expression of regret or of satisfaction. However, there is significance in the difference between what the speaker has just said of the two roads, and what he will say in the future. According to Lawrance Thompson, Frost's biographer, as Frost was once about to read the poem, he commented to his audience, "You have to be careful of that one; it's a tricky poem—very tricky," perhaps intending to suggest the poem's ironic possibilities.”