In an attempt to find something to keep my kids from being plugged into the matrix for 2 weeks while we’re away, I always head down to WH Smith and buy armfuls of sticker books, Minecraft quizzes, packs of cards etc.

This year my daughter at the age of 12 has outgrown lots of the kiddie stuff but the world’s longest maze (allegedly) caught my eye so I grabbed that for her.

We got here, she laid it out; it’s 25 feet long.

 

world's longest maze

 

She sat there, looked at it, folded it up, and put it away.

“There’s no point starting because I always start mazes at the end and work backwards;” she said.

“What if I go wrong and then I have to go back miles and re-start?”.

She wanted to see the whole journey ahead of her from start to finish, complete with no errors, before she would take the first step.

So didn’t even start.

I realized that’s true for so many things I hear people want to do with their lives.

We want to emigrate but what will that mean for our kids ten years from now? Where will we live? What will the people be like? What if I can’t find a job?

And because we can’t possibly know the ‘correct’ answers to all of the above in advance, we don’t start.

We want to set up a new business but what if no one buys our thing when we launch it? What technology do we need to have in place? What will we do if too many people buy all at once and we can’t fulfill the demand? How will this fit with the future book we’re writing/ plans we have to create passive income streams that will support us in the future?

And because we can’t possibly know the ‘correct’ answers to all of the above in advance, we don’t start.

We want to leave a relationship we’ve been in for years but how will the kids react? Where will I live? How will I ‘do’ the whole divorce thing? How will the money work? What if I get sick and have no one there to take care of me?

And because we can’t possibly know the ‘correct’ answers to all of the above in advance, we don’t start.

We want to write a book but how do you publish a book? How long should it be? How will it end? Will anyone buy it? What do you call it? What will the cover be like?

And because we can’t possibly know the ‘correct’ answers to all of the above in advance, we don’t start.

What the maze shows us so beautifully is that we only find out way through by taking what seems to be the next step in the path, coming up against dead ends and then re-routing.

Over and over again.

That is how life works.

You’re going to have a shitty time of it inside your head if you think you have to get it 100% ‘right’, 100% of the time.

Here’s another thing….my daughter knows there’s only one path from the start of the maze to the end and she wants to ‘get it right’ first time.

It looks to me that it’s true; there is a single path between the point where I am today and the day upon which I die.

Life will unfold for me in it’s own unique and particular way.

In Tilly’s (paper) maze, when she reaches the end, the promise is that a whole city-scape picture will be mapped out in the completed picture.

We have no idea what will be in ours.

Now it doesn’t look to me that we can sit on the sidelines and simply not play.

Not starting is not an option.

We’re already a portion of the way through our own maze of life. (A half, a quarter, ninety percent? We have no way to know, that bit’s not up to us).

But we do waste a whole load of time and energy trying to guess ahead as to what our picture will look like by the time we reach the end and trying to figure it out as if it’s up to us.

Much self-help is directed towards asking us to choose the picture we’d like to see then doing what we can to ‘make that happen’.

But what if you choose a picture of a big pile of money, and do everything you can to make that happen, but what’s in your maze is a life of wonderful people and a tiny pile of money?

You won’t even notice them and you’ll have a shit life.

What if you choose five kids and a dog but what’s in your maze is a single life of travelling the world?

Then you’ll be full of regret and you’ll have a shit life.

What if it occurs to us to start a new business, we head down one path and it leads to a complete dead-end and we have to back-track?

If we don’t know that mazes are supposed to work like that, we’ll feel like we failed.

For me what is simpler to know is this:

  1. Like the maze, there are steps we could take in 20 different directions at any point and we can’t really get it wrong. So we can go ahead and take any of them and we don’t have to fear that we’re going to mess up and lose our way from the path. We can’t not end up back there.

 

  1. We don’t get to choose what’s in the picture that unfolds. So instead of creating arbitrary pictures in my head then trying to find the path that creates that picture, and only that one, I find myself curious about what it will look like when I’m finished. Getting totally engaged with what life has put in front of me in this moment. And seeing what shows up from there.

 

And when I spend less time up in my head ‘working my plan’ and drawing ever more elaborate pictures, I’m right back here now.

(See this post to see why that’s cool.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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