Any fool can complicate something, and this is certainly true when it comes to our own lives. Too often, we play the fool. We have an astounding ability to complicate our lives in ways that empty the joy from our days. Genius is taking something complex and making it simple. The poet, Portia Nelson, did that brilliant in her autobiography in five short chapters. In one hundred and fifty words, she provides piercing insight into the journey of life. She may have written the poem about her own life, but I find it captures the essence of my own life at different times. You can decide for yourself what it says about your life. Autobiography in five short chapters.
One. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.
Two. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in the same place, but it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
Three. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there, I still fall in. It's a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
Four. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
Five. I walk down another street.
Are you ready to walk down another street? Are you in a deep hole? Are you sick of falling into that same deep hole? I am. I'm ready to walk down another street. If Portia's poem autobiography resonates with you, perhaps you're ready to walk down another street, too. These discussions we're having are about finding that other street to walk down. There are times in our lives when we need to tweak things. Portia describes that in chapters two, three, and four of her poem. There are other times in life when we need decisive and radical change. That is what she captures brilliantly in five beautifully ordinary words, "I walk down another street." Notice the simplicity of that compared to the complicated life she had been living before.
One of the most dangerous mistakes in life is to ignore the moments that invite us to walk down another street. Still, it takes tremendous awareness and courage to embrace a new direction in our lives. It's so easy to sleepwalk through life. It's so easy to keep walking down the same street, it's so easy to keep falling into that same hole, and all too easy to adopt the posture of the victim and blame somebody else. Life may have you in a hole. Perhaps you did it to yourself, perhaps someone else pushed you in. Maybe it just happened. Regardless, it's time to get yourself out of that hole and find a new path.