“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
Most people will come to a fork in the road at some point in their lives. Many of us will arrive at several. And always, we look back and wonder… what if?
What if I’d taken the other road?
Where would it have led?
What would my life look like now?
Who would I have become?
And as we look back, often we wonder if we made the right decision. Some of us might even consider going back or choosing a different route.
And that’s the thing about these pivotal decisions in life… they’re never easy. And every decisive moment leads to a different destination.
Oddly enough, most people will choose a similar road. It’s the road that is dictated to us. The road we’re taught to take. The safest, and more traditional route. The one where we choose safety and sensibility over risk and impossibility.
Go to school. Get a job. Start a family. Retire.
That’s an oversimplification, obviously. But I look back at some of the people I grew up with, and I always come to a familiar conclusion. A universal observation.
I see that there’s something lacking in their lives.
I’m not quite sure what it is… it’s different for everyone. But something is missing. Something they’d wished they’d done. Some nagging regret.
No one is immune to experiencing regret. I have more regrets than most, likely. But at the same time, there’s not much I regret. Would I have done things differently? Most would agree that, yes, I absolutely should have.
We typically regret what we perceive to be mistakes we’ve made. But if you dig deeper into what it means to be “successful,” you begin to see a pattern. Often the most successful people say it has been the mistakes they’ve made that have brought them to where they currently stand.
Mistakes are not failures. I don’t really believe there’s such a thing as failure. Maybe the only true failures are failures to learn from our mistakes.
Michael Jordan said, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
And I think it’s important to note that many of the people who have truly “made it” in life, have a different definition of success.
They attribute personal growth as their main success. In fact, they say that investing in personal growth is the reason they’ve become successful in other areas of their lives.
The poem I quoted at the beginning of this post tells the story of a man who is faced with a decision. Should he take the easiest, most beaten path?
Or should he choose the more difficult and treacherous path?
And it brings up a question as to what leads to personal growth. And the truth is, only challenge and struggle will bring the most growth.
Smooth seas don’t make skillful sailors, as they say.
So, some of us take the road not travelled. The more difficult and challenging path. The one that will be ridden with mistakes and perceived failures. The one that will have us contemplating whether we’ll ever make it through the journey.
Where will it lead?
It’s impossible to say.
But as Robert Frost wrote…
It will make all the difference.