May 22

The Unavailable Choice

May 22, 2008

Personal Growth

A Choice Exists but is Unavailable

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

When I first read these words some four decades ago, I imagined that Robert Frost was referring to some single romantic moment in his life, when he made a choice that “made all the difference.” Perhaps he was, but now I understand that every day, with every thought and every action, we stand at a place where “two roads diverge.” In every moment we’re making choices: to go right or left, to tell the truth, or to deceive, to be loving or to add to the contention in the world, to be happy or to be miserable, and so on.

Over the years I have spoken to thousands of people who have stood at a fork in the road and chosen to take the path that leads to lies, anger, and misery. Why would they do that? Why would they make such a choice when a happier course is available to them?

Finally, the answer occurred to me: The happier road — the “one less traveled by,” as Frost referred to it — really is not available to them. In order to illustrate what I mean, imagine that you’re on an important journey by foot, and you come to a fork in the road. I tell you that if you take the path to the right, you will arrive at your destination in half the time required by the path to the left. The path to the left will not only take longer but will take you through a nasty swamp and other unpleasant ordeals.

The problem with the path to the right, however, is a steep climb that begins immediately and continues for the first two miles. It turns out that you haven’t taken good care of your body for years — you’ve smoked, you’ve eaten too much, and you haven’t exercised — so you can’t climb for more than two hundred yards before you’re ready to call an ambulance. So even though the path to the right exists, it’s not really available to you.

A Choice exists but We are Not Aware of It

Now let’s consider another scenario. Further along the path to the left, you encounter a shortcut that would cut your travel time by more than half. But again, even though the path exists, it’s not really available to you, this time because night has fallen, it’s quite dark, and you don’t have a flashlight with you.

Similarly, in life, we are almost always surrounded by happier and wiser choices, but in many cases, they are not truly available to us either because we’re simply not aware of them (as in the case of the darkness just described) or because we’ve made so many bad choices previously that we’re simply incapable of making a happy choice even when we can see one (as in the case of the lack of physical fitness).

The process of becoming loving and happy is much like the process of becoming physically fit. There are many steps between the realization of what we need to become and the accomplishment of it. And so we must begin to take the steps that lead to strength. We must do what it takes to eliminate the unavailability of the good choices in our lives. We can do this with knowledge and action.

The more I study the principles of Real Love, and the more I practice finding and sharing Real Love, the more I become capable of loving the people around me and becoming happy regardless of the circumstances surrounding me. I become capable of taking whatever fork in the road I choose. As I become more loving, no path becomes too difficult, and that is true power.

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