How To Know If You’re On The Right Path

The subtle art of walking through the right doors

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Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

There is hardly a moment in my daily life when the thought isn’t creeping up on me from one direction or another. For many years I’ve been wondering about more or less the same thing: “Am I on the right path?”

I ask myself this question with an intrinsic ambivalence running through my response. My assumption is that I can do something to change my circumstances, if I wish. I’m ready to participate in the journey so long as it the right one for me; the nagging question is knowing if this path is also my path.

Confidence and optimism in finding the right path is not as clear-cut as it sounds. For there is a strange undertow that lurks beneath the surface when you feel that the true pathway is there to be found. Ambitions interlaced with notions of your own strengths and weaknesses, hopes, dreams and self-delusions: all these threads weave a rich but not altogether lucid tapestry.

So why then propose the idea of a true path at all?

The idea that there is a true path for each of us should, by rights, raise a suspicious eyebrow.

In our modern culture, atomized and individualized, we have become a population of increasingly solitary points in a network. Individualism has become a curious virtue, encouraged and exacerbated by the usefulness of the individual to the advertising world. “Be the best version of yourself” may stand as the double-edged slogan of our times. It acts as both an affirmative call-to-action and a threat of ever-pending inadequacy.

What I mean by a true path, then, is really about developing a sense — a sixth sense, if you will — of knowing how best to spend your time and therefore to feel at home with your efforts, whichever way they are directed. It is not about dogmatically asserting yourself as special or destined. It’s about something more subtle than that.

A pathway that feels right has to have the right balance of elements, the right balance of opportunity, challenge, hope and reality.

Speaking personally, my hopes of achievement are always balanced against my ideals of creativity and integrity. Getting the balance right is a constant concern. What I’ve learnt is that moving forward on my path has happened most effectively (and enjoyably) when I treat life like a series of doors: I try the handles and some doors open and some stay closed.

Finding the doors that open (and leaving behind the ones that don’t) has the dual benefit of allowing you to progress whilst also enabling you to adapt to the twists and turns of the journey: the synthesis that exists between you and your true path is an organic one, since leaving behind what is not right for you is just as important as learning what is. The path reveals itself in this way, as symptomatic of your strengths and opportunities.

I believe that very few people are naturally extraordinary. The high-achievers we see around us are no different from everyone else, except perhaps that they have discovered how to get the best from themselves. They have found the sort of path I’m talking about. They are simply people who, by virtue of their good chance in understanding the difference between what hinders them and what helps them, have learnt to occupy their best groove.

They’ve learnt that not every door opens, whereas others open more easily. They simply do what is best for them and what they enjoy the most, and in this manner, they are independent thinkers in the best possible way.

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Christopher P Jones writes about culture, art and life. Sign up for more.

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Art historian and art critic, writer, artist. Author of “How to Read Paintings”

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