Do you ever find yourself heading down a road that you followed instinctively, only to realize that you’re way off course? Maybe you were heading to a familiar destination but, driving on autopilot, you missed a turn. Or maybe you were headed toward someplace new, and you got so completely and utterly lost, you wouldn’t have known which way to turn if you’d tried.
When you’re really, truly lost, what do you do next? Do you quickly find a way to get your bearings and get back on course? Or do you keep driving in the same direction, feeling sure that you’ll discover what you were looking for soon (and fearing that to change directions would have you even more lost than you already are)?
There are so many times in life when we know we’re lost, but we’re scared to change direction. We think that if we keep moving forward, we’ll eventually find our way. We fear that stopping equals stagnation. We worry that re-evaluation will lead to more confusion. And, perhaps most importantly:
We’re afraid to admit we’re wrong.
Let’s go back to the driving example. How often have you been lost but felt so confident in your ability to find your way that you don’t even bother to look at a map or ask for directions? How often do you drive along and think, “I know these roads well enough – I’ll find my way back…”?
Here’s the thing: that’s not confidence speaking, that’s your ego. Your ego is desperate to prove that you’re not wrong and that soon enough the right way will come to you. Your ego thinks that the answers are in your head, you just need to find them.
The ego, in all of its falsely confident glory, can cause us to go further and further down that wrong path. It prevents us from even realizing that we’ve made a mistake, and since we don’t recognize it as such, we can’t correct it or learn from it. The ego can drive us straight into a ditch, and it will happily do so if it means never admitting we were wrong.
If the ego is in the car with you, it’s time to kick it out.
It’s Never Too Late to Course Correct
When you’re feeling a bit lost in life, whether it’s in your car, your career, or the habits you’ve developed with your family, your ego will try to keep you on your current course, even if it isn’t a successful one.
Why? Because to admit we need to change reveals we know we’re doing something wrong, and that there’s room for improvement. This admission is an act of vulnerability – and the ego hates vulnerability.
Now here’s the good news: if you’ve seen this happen in your life and you want to course-correct, it’s never too late to do it. What you have to do is put that ego in check, learn from what you’re going through, and develop a new path forward.
Anytime you want to make a change, the first step is to immediately stop engaging in the behaviors that led you to this point. It requires a reframing of your mindset that will enable you to make different choices in the future.
Let’s say you and your teenager have developed a habit of screaming at one another when tensions rise. If this has been going on for months (or years), you might think that the habit is formed and there’s no way to change your relationship.
Or maybe you’ve had a difficult relationship with your boss, and every exchange between the two of you is heated. You might think you’ve gone far beyond the point of being able to connect.
It could be that you and your spouse barely speak anymore because the daily realities of life have left you tired, frazzled, and desperately wanting to be alone. You might be worried that you’ll never remember what brought the two of you together in the first place.
So, what do you do? First, you need to put your ego in check. Admit to yourself that you need to change for your own sake (let alone the sake of your relationships). Get back in that driver’s seat (literally and figuratively) and take control over your own actions. Remind yourself that if you want to change, you can.
You can stop the screaming match with your teen before it even begins by refusing to yell. If you keep your cool, you’ll be modeling the behavior you want to see in your child, and you’ll stay in control.
You can be open and transparent with your boss about what you’re trying to achieve, and why you think it matters to the team without getting defensive or angry.
You can be the one to say to your spouse, “Let’s have a date night” or “Let’s eat dinner at the table instead of in front of the TV,” or even, “How was your day?”
Just like you have the power to pull over and ask for directions or whip out your phone and view a map when you’re lost in your car, you also have the power to course-correct in your life.
What you need to do is act now. First, take a minute to get your bearings. Second, figure out where you went off course. Third, map a new direction that will get you where you want to be – emotionally, physically, and/or interpersonally.
We all feel hopeless sometimes, and the fear of being wrong is so overwhelming that we hide from what we know is true. Thing is, hiding sucks and really, we can only hide for so long before it destroys us. Instead, take some time, map out a plan, and seek out what and who you need to course-correct. If you’re still breathing, it’s never too late.
Image Credit: Benjamin Combs