The Well-Worn Path: a Journey of Personal Discovery and Individual Destiny

07/26/2016 02:15 am ET Updated Jul 26, 2017

Volition is essential to self-determination. To self-direct and shape our individual path is a fundamental part of being human. Yet personal volition can feel illusive and out of reach amid the minutia of fear, responsibility and economy. I have discovered, no surprise, that it can be difficult to move beyond these blocks and even more challenging yet, to arrive at personal self-actuated choice. Choice in all its guts and glory, hardship and heartache and doubt and action are key to life and leadership.

For me, life is often akin to the feeling of being dropped in the middle of a vast wilderness without GPS. Not knowing which way to turn or where to go. Amid this fear, panic and possible scramble for solution enters the well-worn path. Where there was question, doubt and uncertainty there is now seeming direction. This path is trodden by the footsteps of family, gender, race, education and socio-economics. On the well-worn path we see grass dead and matted down, the dirt worn into distinct grooves and the track well-established, step after step and person after person. By virtue of this path's existence it is perpetually and increasingly reinforced. Again and again, over and over the reinforcement and wear deliver ever more reinforcement--a deeper print and a wider track. In a field of tall grass and bramble the existence of the well-trodden path creates further obscurity for all other choice. Its vastness negates awareness of any other options. Its dominance and invisible gravity pull us deeper and deeper along a path we may not have consciously chosen. The seduction of the familiar moves us as a leaf falling from the sky. We become a passenger on a train without transfers or stops. Inert. Powerless to change direction or trajectory.

For years I was a passenger on this train. The ideas of gender roles and familial expectation kept me glued to my seat, unable to exit or course correct. Unknowingly, little by little I passively stepped into the wide and worn path of the expected. Responsibility, tradition and fear acted like a giant life-sized funnel. Leaving me to spiral in a predetermined direction, moving from a wide-open world to an ever narrowing one. I found myself on a path I did not choose. Moving and traveling in one direction, unable to change or redirect.

Newton's first law of motion states that an object in motion will stay in motion, until something big knocks it in a new direction. To change paths, we need to be pushed. It is a push from the inside out and the outside in. It is the difference between action and reaction. Choice and default. Belief and doubt. To get off of my train I had to jump. I needed to sit in the vast wilderness of my fears and navigate dreams. We each must ask ourselves what can knock us off this train we travel, mile after mile, day after day and year after year? All of us have traveled a path, at one time or another, worn by years of other's experience, but now is the time to ask and reflect. Did I choose this road? Was there more volition or gravity? Choice or default? Belief or doubt? Am I more leaf falling from the sky or bird spreading its wings?

I have thought a lot about the truth and humanity of Newton's First Law of Motion and how it relates to this travelled path. Nothing will change direction planet or human alike unless acted on by force. Here it is, its pretty simple but incredibly difficult: push yourself, because no one else is going to do it. I want each and every one of us to discover how to activate volition. Discover the power of self-determination. And unlock leadership and potential. Can you imagine what the world could be like if every human acted in the direction of their individual potential. Amazing. Today you can begin that journey and discover your own path. Commit to one step at a time. Today, make one choice outside the well-travelled road. Take a small step. Just one today and another tomorrow again and again and again.

Once again imagine a wide, grassy wilderness. Imagine the feeling of being lost, but this time let go of fear. Let go of the urgency to find a way out and embrace discovery. Envision possibility. Fight the gravity of the road well-traveled and instead become comfortable in the unknown. Attune your attention to personal thought and dreams. Discover new ideas, passions and creativity. Suspend doubt and identify strengths. Try something new. Do this again and again until ideas move from a quiet, doubting whisper to a glorious song. Do it again and again until your path shifts from imperceptible to a distinct and solid presence. Believe that volition practiced over the course of weeks and months will pave a personal path of fulfilment, growth and leadership.

I have practiced clearing my own path by having courage. I take regular inventory on what I think, like and excel in. I assess and self-reflect often to keep me on my own track. Then I repeat. Inventory. Have courage. Move. Create. Again and again, until my path is well established--until the well-worn path is my own path.

About Maran Whiting Hanley: As a writer life is my artist muse. I love to watch and apply. I believe a writer's job is to tell a story. To fit disparate and incongruent pieces into one great whole. I am an enthusiast of health and wellness. I am passionate about self-care, whole foods and movement. I love to travel. I am an artist. A collector. A lover of art. Above all I am human--by trial and error trying to learn how to live and love.



This Spirituality and Transformative Leadership series was set up as a response to the need to bring 'higher order' principles into leadership today and to spark an ongoing discussion as to the role that spirituality, as distinct from religion, has in today's world.  It is a curated series that invites both Young Global Leaders and others with an interest in leadership to contribute to a discussion on the role that spirituality plays in leadership today.  For more information, please see the following link for an overview of the origins of this project see http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/caroline-watson2/spirituality-and-transfor_b_7637984.html and for a link to all the blog posts in the series please click here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/news/spirituality-and-transformative-leadership