A wrong turn. Then another. The trees are thick and tangled here. The light is failing. The path we have lost could be anywhere. The forest looks the same in every direction.
We become lost when we abandon old stories about ourselves: who we are, how we belong, what we live for. Perhaps we no longer believe in them. Perhaps we never did. Maybe they were not our stories to begin with. Maybe they belong to someone else and need to be returned. Maybe we have never had a story we can call our own.
We become lost when we lose faith in our life's journey—the path we have trodden, the doors we have opened, the destination we have sought. Some of us walk with confidence into the forest, and only later lose our way. Some of us find ourselves lost before we even make a start. Some of us do not yet understand that we must enter the forest by ourselves: our path is ours alone to make.
It is not easy being lost. It brings bewilderment, discomfort, anxiety, and fear. It unmakes our adult selves and returns us to our primal forms. It is a time for us to seek support from colleagues, friends, guides, and loved ones. We need their help to find the courage to tolerate our fears, and the patience to rediscover our path. We must remind ourselves that unless we are lost, we cannot find our way. If the path is already there in front of us, how can it be ours?
I was one of those who walked confidently into the forest as a young man, and lost my way later in life. I was 35, and had been working in journalism since I graduated college. I lost faith in the value of my work, and in my profession. It had happened bit by bit, and then all at once. Because my sense of myself had been so caught up in what I did, I also lost my idea about who I was. I had no idea what I wanted to do, or who I wanted to be. All I knew was that I had to abandon who I was.
I jumped out of the boat, swam for shore, picked myself up off the beach and wandered into the wilderness. I had no idea who I would find or what I was even looking for. It was exactly what I needed.
"On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed...who shall have rest, and who wander," says the Unetaneh Tokef, which tells of God's judgment of us for the coming year.
I have probably coached 50 people on their careers by now. I enjoy it very much. It is the deeper questions that seem the most important to us. What am I good at? What brings me enjoyment? What matters to me? What do I value? What draws me into the world? These questions can arise at any time in our lives. My youngest client is 22. My oldest is 73. As we grow, the answers change.
Each week I explore a life metaphor that has touched me in my coaching. Subscribe to get my scribblings every Sunday morning. You can also follow me on Medium, or on LinkedIn. Feel free to forward this to a friend, colleague, or loved one, or anyone you think might benefit from reading it.