I was travelling lately. I’m lucky in that this is something I regularly do, whether for personal or professional reasons. A few keys to my travels: only ever carry-on luggage, a tight little dopp kit, a monochromatic wardrobe that travels well.
When I travel for fun- a weekend away, a trip to see family, some new adventure- there is typically a laundry list of things I want to do. There are a lot of books to catch up on, and I just wish for some time to clear my head. I want space, but I have a to do list. I want rest, but also want adventure.
When I travel for work, things are a bit different.
Last week, I was up at 4:30, out the door and into an Uber by 5:15. I traveled in work clothes, got through airport security in record time, and grabbed a smoothie for breakfast. Coffee was on the plane, shortly after the 7am departure. Thanks to time change, I was in my client’s office before 10am. From there, it was a focused week. In the office, I burned through my list of things to do. I would get back to the hotel, exhausted but wholly satisfied that I had had a complete day. Turning that work part of me off, I would recuperate with a book, podcast, or call.
Despite questionable food choices and a body that was time-zone confused, I found a certain calm in the week away. The elimination of distraction was refreshing. The cacophony of choice wasn’t as overwhelming as it is at home.
Recently the idea of choosing a lane keeps coming up for me. It is that idea of selecting one thing, and sticking with it. It can be your identity or your wardrobe, a food choice or a morning ritual. Something that is wholly yours.
I am in this space in my life where choices are everywhere. Since starting my own company a year ago, everyday I have the opportunity to decide where that takes me. Who I want to be, what my mission statement is, how I will offer services to my clients. It is refreshing to have those options, but it can be hard to select the best option, particularly when there are so many options available. More importantly, in the interconnected life we all live in, there are so many models available as well. You can compare yourself to any number of individuals, all with something to emulate. There always appears to be someone else doing something interesting, better than you.
That’s where the idea of choosing a lane comes in. I have started to dive deep into Ryan Holiday’s work, and in one essay, he discusses the importance of having a priority. One that is yours to hold high and guide your life’s work. There are different priorities- everyone has them. But the important thing is to bow out of the race and the comparison trap. If you have your own priorities, that is where you draw your own line, your own boundary. What happens outside of those boundaries fades away, and is no longer important.
Holiday asks, “What is the most important thing?”
I lose that in the Instagram scroll. I lose that when I numb out with YouTube. I can’t see the important thing for all the clutter in my closet, bookshelf, Facebook feed. That’s when I feel groundless. That balance becomes seemingly unattainable. There is no shortage of choice, but just reviewing the options doesn’t allow for a decision.
I want to be healthy, go to the gym, get running again, develop a yoga practice for me. I want to read everything, start writing, and develop creative pursuits. I want to create coaching programs based on everything I have learned, I want to be coached to continually learn, create a website that captures all of that. I want to be the dedicated friend, partner, daughter, sister, human. I want to be strong, sexy, vibrant, confident. I want a strong sense of self, balanced and grounded. I want to write a book, speak on stage, be an expert. I want to start a community, I want to see mountains and oceans, I want to travel and live and learn. Because we all die.
But none of that will happen without the selection of a lane. A choice to commit to a priority that resonates with my values and my beliefs. A library of choice is useless without action. When I travelled last week, my choices were whittled down and my actions were clear. I felt accomplished because I had focus.
Focus has felt elusive to me this past year. There are too many options. A ton of articles to read. Checklists and outlines.
The success stories of the entrepreneurs often skip the hard parts, or glorify the late nights. This company thing has been hard work, causing me to question every facet of my personality and my ability. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, but I realize now that the next move relies on focus. That the difference in dreaming and doing is action.
These are all things I knew, pervasive axioms that are spun out on memes and Pinterest boards. But truly understanding how they are applicable, that is the work. Being honest about how you aren’t embedding them in your life, that is the work. Recognizing that reading and scrolling isn’t the work.
Living is the work. Choosing the lane- that’s the first step.