Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Dead Ends: How Did I Get Here?

"How did I get to a Dead End?" we may have asked ourselves in the past? "I did my homework on this career" or "Person X and I really examined ourselves before we moved into the next phase of our relationship. It just seems like it happened out of nowhere."

The truth is that Dead Ends, like virtually everything else in life, do not simply appear out of nowhere. The analogy of a physical dead end is applicable: we don't just show up in a cul-de-sac or cove, we somehow get there - either purposefully or by accident.

Now, arriving at a cul-de-sac to visit a friend or a cove to enjoy a lovely afternoon on the lake is one thing; to arrive there when we fully expected to be somewhere else is far more depressing, especially when we fully expected to be somewhere else.

But just like determining that we need to reverse our direction to get to where we need to go, we also need to figure out how to do this in our personal Dead Ends. And, just like driving, we need to take a crucial first step before going: How did I get here?

The reality is that if we are truly honest with ourselves, most of the Dead Ends we find ourselves in do not truly arise out of nowhere. Somewhere, in the back of our minds, we had inklings or expectations that this might be the case. Oft times it results from a decision hastily made; other times it stems from a decision made thoughtlessly or with less than fully consideration or even consciously ignoring ourselves or others. Either way, much like passing streets we don't recognize and aren't expecting yet continuing on, there are almost always indicators before we arrive that the road we are on is leading to a Dead End.

Of course we acknowledge that in order to leave a Dead End, we need to get back to where we got lost. But before we do, we need to take a moment to orient ourselves and figure out what we need to do. It's instructive to ask these questions:

1) What is the Dead End I am in?: Define the Dead End. What specifically is it: Is the the job, or is it the career? Is it the specific thing I am doing, or does this activity overall really not suit me? Is it specifically this time in our relationship, or is it the relationship in general? Without specifically defining the Dead End, it is difficult to figure out what we will need to do.

2) How did I get here?: This requires a bit more thought - and a lot of honesty. Look back over the history of the Dead End. Why did you choose it? What were your thoughts when you made this choice (if you're a journaler, this can be a useful tool in recreating your thought processes)? What did you hope to get out of it? Were there any signs at the time of choosing, or any time after, that gave you pause in your decision? If so, why did you choose to ignore them?

Turning around and navigating out of a Dead End is not difficult - but if we don't know where we are and how we got here, we'll simply succeed in arriving at another Dead End.

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