“Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”
– Robert Frost
One of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, is the author of one of the world’s best-loved and most famous poems, “The Road Not Taken.” This poem about choosing an independent course applies in all areas of our lives. To me, Frost says be wary of following the pack, and don’t do anything simply because everyone else is doing it. Also, do what you do in the manner that you perceive it, regardless of how everyone is doing it, or has done it. The importance of choosing your own path is reflected in the poem’s conclusion—that taking the road “less traveled by” makes all the difference. Virtually all the people we revere took the road less traveled by, and that is why they were able to make a difference.
Frost himself was expected to be a farmer, lawyer, and then a teacher. He tried farming and left it. He entered law school to be the lawyer his grandfather wanted him to be, but departed almost immediately without notice. He left Harvard because of an illness, perhaps brought on by trying the road most traveled. But poetry was in his heart, and when he went down a road that few traveled with him, it made all the difference, and today we have his poetry because of that choice.
Frost’s poem invites you to forget peer pressure and instead know that if you truly want to make a difference in your life, you cannot do so by doing things the way everyone else does or because everyone else is. If you choose to lead your life just like everyone else, then what exactly is it that you have to offer? The road most traveled by is one that will allow you to fit in and feel accepted, but it will never allow you to make a difference.
In my own professional work I have been willing to speak and write about topics and ideas that were criticized by those on the more frequented road. In the beginning, the road I took was filled with potholes and gravel. Yet my work has always come from that place I trust most—my own heart—and so I persisted. As the years passed the road became paved and well-lit. Now many who once thought this was a preposterous path are walking with me. I have heard them say, “I used to think those ideas were insane, but now I really like what you were saying then.” I am happy to have experienced what Robert Frost was writing about.
Listen to your own heart concerning the path you wish to travel. Even if your entire life training has been in one direction, if it is not what you feel now, then begin the adventure of exploring a less-traveled road.