If you’re at a significant crossroads, I congratulate you. The crossroads is a powerful place on one’s path that can activate your greatest potential and bring your purpose to life.

However, the crossroads can also be a pretty overwhelming locale fraught with as much confusion and apprehension as inspiration. This is especially the case if you get caught in any of a number of traps laid by your inner saboteur.

Think of your saboteur as that part of you that wants to keep you within the confines of the status quo. It has the best of intentions – to keep you safe. Yet, while it seeks to minimise your risks, the saboteur may cause the greatest failure of all: regret about what could have been.

Meditation and Mindfulness

The Five Traps

Trap 1: Waiting to take action

If you’re reading this you’re definitely beyond the fatal frontier of resignation. But are you in meaningful action?

The most common saboteur trap is the idea that you need to wait for the perfect conditions before taking action. From this perspective, everything is OK as long as you think about new possibilities and then justify why you can’t go for it right now. But the cost of simply spinning the wheels of the mind can be high.

After a while, thought without action tends to lead us to lose faith in ourselves and our dreams. Instead of inspiring you to go after your aspirations, your ideas can become viruses that tease the mind, make you further dissatisfied with the status quo and dubious about your ability to go after what you really want.

The remedy? Ask yourself, “What is one step I can take towards my dream now?” Answer the question then do it.

You don’t need to let go of everything you’ve already established to take action at a crossroads. You just need to start taking tangible steps. One step leads to another. These steps can be as small as talking to your friends and family about your ideas or contacting people who work in fields of interest to pick their brains.

The key point is, be in action and stay in action. Gradually, over time, the accumulation of actions taken will bring clarity, confidence and unforeseen opportunities.

 

Trap 2: Insufficient and Uncreative Research

If you’re in action, great. Make sure one key action is proactive, constructive and creative research. A lot of people think intuition and a few validating conversations with friends are sufficient for making big life choices like starting a business, committing to a degree or moving from one career path to another. Maybe, but you can do better than that.

Contact people who are in the know. For example, if you’re contemplating a career change contact people in your field of interest or further along your current career path. Offer to buy them lunch so you can find out what it is like from the horse’s mouth. If possible, see if you can shadow them for a day or two to see what the gig is really like.

If you’re considering study, see if you can talk to faculty and past students to find out about their experience. If you’re contemplating beginning a services business, try being a client to see if you would like to be the professional on the other side of the table.

Whatever you do, don’t just stumble forth on blind assumption. In short, see what you can do to get yourself grounded in the day-to-day reality of the possible pathway. A few days or weeks spent really sussing things out could save you months, years  or even a lifetime of misadventure thereafter.

"What is one step I can take towards my dream now?” Answer this then step into action

Trap 3: Going for the quick fix

A lot of us stumble along our life paths from one random opportunity to another. Something doesn’t work out, we’re at a new crossroads looking for something else. If you’re seeing your crossroads through the lens of dissatisfaction just about any change will look rosy. But different doesn’t necessarily mean better and only in certain instances is a quick fix the answer.

Being at a crossroads is a perfect opportunity to unearth your deeper purpose and true calling. It is your chance to really question what you want your life to be about. The saboteur doesn’t like this enquiry one bit as it may lead to a real shake up of business as usual.

For me such a crossroads led to quitting an amazing job, selling a beautiful home and packing up a wonderful life in Australia to follow my dreams with my wife and twin one-year-olds on a global adventure.

During this crossroads I allowed myself ample time to sit with the following question:

  • What is it that seeks to emerge through my life?

This deeper reflective enquiry crystalized my purpose in a more profound way than I’d ever experienced it before infusing my life with greater passion and clarity. In fact, it is a core reason I’m writing this to you now!

Here’s a way out of the trap of the quick fix. Find a secluded space in nature and just sit there for a few hours with the question, “What seeks to emerge through my life?” or another enquiry that works for you. Don’t think too hard. Allow insight to arise. Trust the process. And, I repeat, stay there for at least a few hours!

Not many people are willing to sit with themselves for so long but it’s amazing what comes to those of us who are.

 

Trap 4: Forgetting the Big Picture

When people meet each other it’s pretty common for them to jump from names and pleasantries to the big question, “What do you do?” People collapse who they are with what they do.

While your career may be one of the most important aspects of your life it is only one aspect of a bigger picture that includes your health, family, community and overall lifestyle.

The trap here is that it can be easy to get fixated on your ideas about how great a particular vocational path will be while losing sight of it within the broader context of your life. All too often people find themselves with the business or career of their dreams but with fraught relationships, their mental or physical health compromised and their overall quality of life limited.

In your research find out from people how their business or career impacts the aspects of life you care about most. Ask them if they have enough time for the people they love and about their overall sense of wellbeing.

Also, ask yourself: What do I most value in life? When you are clear about your most cherished values you will be able to test your options in relation to these values.

 

Trap 5: Trying to do it all yourself

Being at the crossroads can be a lonely place for many people. While the ultimate choice of which road to take is ultimately yours and yours alone the process of setting yourself up for success can (and often should) be collaborative.

Beyond being in action and having a deep sense of purpose, it is your connection to others that is most likely to propel you powerfully along a new career path. While you may need to safeguard against being swayed by their fears, including those who are closest to you can ensure they understand what you are dreaming into and allow them to be there for you logistically and emotionally each step of the way.

Being at a life crossroads is also an ideal time to engage a coach who can facilitate your enquiry, help you strategize how you navigate this key time and hold you to account in executing the actions you devise. A final way to avoid the trap of isolation is to band together with others who are also at a significant crossroads in order to inspire and learn from one another.

“By engaging in mindfulness practice, you will become aware of the patterns and habits of your mind.”