Path Theory: Freeing ourselves from the paralysis of "I don't know what I wanna do"

I was a very bright child who excelled in school. I had no problem with any of my classes and had seemingly unlimited potential. I did, however, have a problem choosing a path for myself. I had nobody pushing me in any direction and nothing that particularly interested me. When I entered college, I went in Undeclared. When I did end up choosing my majors (Marketing and Writing), I did so reluctantly and without conviction.

I didn't know what I wanted to do.

I still don't.

The difference between the me of today and the me of 2006 is that I have a better understanding of my limitations, and also a better understanding of the things that I don't want to do. 

The biggest limitation that we all face is time. As the years tick by, less and less things are possible. Allow me to introduce "Path Theory."

Path Theory is a term I've coined for lack of a better one. I first came across the idea in a fantastic metaphysics video called "Imagining the Tenth Dimension." In fact, I went back to the video and stole an image from it to help explain, since I'm not much of an artist myself. In the image below, the man at the bottom represents potential at a point in time and the resulting possibilities for him stem from there. Clicking on the image will take you to the video itself, and it comes with my absolute highest recommendation. 

You will never have more potential paths than you do at this moment. You had more potential paths yesterday. You'll have less tomorrow. Some paths are more favorable than others. Whether you've chosen a path or not, you're on one right now.

The point that the 19 year old Kyle Fournier didn't understand is that the end goal is less important than pointing the compass in the right direction

I don't necessarily have to become a BJJ instructor, but as long as I continue training in BJJ, that path and the eventual possibility of becoming a BJJ instructor remains open.

I don't necessarily have to become a personal trainer, but as long as I continue learning about exercise and nutrition, that option becomes more available to me. 

Like most of the concepts that I'll try to explain, it seems simple, but somehow it's easy to lose sight of. In my youth, I was paralyzed by opportunity. I could become a mathematician, but what if I don't want to? So I stopped studying math. I could become a writer, but what if I don't want to? I stopped writing.

If something interests you and it leads down a path you may want to go down, invest in it. Never stop learning and experiencing. Think about the person you want to become and how you might get there. Then, execute. It's really that simple. 

As I mentioned earlier, I still don't know what I want to do. But I know which direction I should go in. I know the paths that interest me and many that don't. I can point my compass. I know that I should be:

  • Exercising
  • Meditating
  • Learning martial arts
  • Writing
  • Practicing public speaking
  • Socializing
  • Reading

That list isn't exhaustive of course, but it should give an idea of what I'm talking about. If I fail to meditate more often than I succeed, the path of Zen Master closes itself. But it's one I'm interested in, so I know to point my compass in that direction and meditate daily. (Obviously, I use the term "Zen Master" somewhat facetiously.)

This theory can also (and should also) be applied to actions we SHOULD NOT take. If I start using heroin tomorrow and decide it's pretty cool, many paths begin to leave my field of potential. More likely and more controversially: if I have a child, I narrow my potential paths significantly.

I would never presume to tell anyone what to do with their life, but I would urge you to think carefully about where certain paths take you and to reconsider many of your daily actions. Our actions become who we are.