Every now and then we get the chance to sneak out of every day routine. To call in sick and enjoy a day at home reading (though we don’t even have time for it any longer). Not going back to a meeting after having been to the ladies’ room. Then there are those rare occasions, like skipping a workshop ‘just’ to have a rare philosophical discussion with interesting and nice people instead. The feeling of taking a chance and not be where you are expected to be is exciting. Altogether choosing an unexpected approach to things – to a home project, destination for a holiday or a new job is refreshing. It has even been said that it is good for development of the brain to divert from routine.
Life is short and so are the possibilities we’ve been given to do things different. Most people do not set out to live a routine life. Changing plans and going off the path can often give a feeling of being in the driver seat. And many people like that. And if you don’t want to spend your life thinking “what if”, you need to follow your heart. To listen to your gut feeling. To follow another path. If you can’t find one, make up one yourself. If you believe that nothing is predestined, then the future can be influenced by your own ability and guts to divert from the main roads and currents.
So why do we keep driving on the main roads? There are several reasons. The main road is often broad, it is safe, there are a lot of road signs and you know you will get to one of the bigger cities. So taking the main road is basically easier. People ask less questions. You ask yourself fewer questions. Because you know where they lead you. In some parts or periods of life taking the main road is actually the best thing to do. Think back when you decided your education or career. Were you truly aligned with your potential and strengths or did you enter that particular university or line of business just because lots of others were doing the same? I didn’t. Everybody else was studying economics, law or psychology. I looked up at the ‘menu’ of the home university and stumbled upon a new subject called ‘computational linguistics’. This was so exotic and unknown to me, I had to choose it. I diverted from the main road. I took a different path.
It is about recognising the chances of doing something fun, difficult, challenging, unorthodox, to sometimes do some things differently – or at least with a twist. That’s the exciting part of life. You never know where it leads you.
I remember learning that my grandfather – growing up in poor family, was not allowed to continue school even though he got a scholarship – because he had to work to support his family. Throughout life he was careful with money – only towards the end of his life he realised that he should have travelled more and regretting not having done so. Jumping on life’s’ opportunities is not always as simple as it sounds. Some of us are fortunate to have real choices – we owe it to ourselves at least to consider them and know what we discard if we choose to stay on the mainroad throughout life. Sometimes when we’re given a chance we should take it and don’t think further. Don’t wait for any flash lights indicating you “here is your chance”. Look for chances. Take chances. Grab chances, or create them. Don’t wait for any of them to be offered to you on a silver tablet.
We need to keep our eyes and mind open to path changers and those unique moments of opportunities. This is what we should tell our kids (too). And show them that life is beautiful. And mostly like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Nor what you’re going to do with it. But every change starts at the individual level. They start with you making a choice. Sit with your kids and watch (again) Life is Beautiful or Forrest Gump and talk with them about embracing life and every different turn it offers.