The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
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 this in high school, I viewed the world from a completely literal perspective. When asked what this poem meant, I looked puzzled and restated what I read; someone was walking through the woods, came to a fork in the road and was trying to decide which way to go. That’s all.
Over the years, I’ve revisited this poem many times. As I’ve learned to understand imagery and metaphor, I have come to appreciate it even more. It’s a simple but profound message I take from this. Fear naught, worry naught and when life gives you a choice, be adventurous and try a path that not everyone else walks.
Easier said than done for me at times. But it leads me to an interesting observation; it’s all about choice. Consciously choosing a path or a way forward; a direction of growth. Each choice opens up new opportunities, new choices and new possibilities. Each choice also helps put other choices behind us so we can learn from them and grow.
I believe we are the sum of our experiences. Our experiences are determined by our choices. Our choices open up new adventures, new fears and new ideas. Choice shapes many areas of our lives, but these four choice categories are the ones I find most impactful.
- Choice of Intent
It’s my belief that intentions are important. Choosing our intentions, our goals, pave the way for us to make a difference in the world. Without intent for our life, we often find ourselves tumbling along whisked around and directionless.
- Choice of Perception
Seeing the world through rose colored glasses is a great cliché, but it’s also a great way to live. Choosing to see the bright side of things, the silver lining, keeps our minds happier and healthier. And because a happier mind reduces stress on our bodies, we stay physically healthier as well.
- Choice of Action
Intention may pave the way, but without action, the best intentions mean next to nothing. Seeing something that needs to be done and choosing to take the action necessary to help shows the character within. However, action still needs to be guided by intent; otherwise we run the risk of thrashing about doing lots of things but never really accomplishing anything.
- Choice of Reaction
This one is really tricky for most. I’ve found this to be the most rewarding type of choice as well as the most difficult. Cultivating space between stimulus and reaction so that the reaction can be consciously chosen and not just a reflexive response requires the three P’s; practice, persistence and patience. It also takes no small order of compassion for when we do not live up to our own expectations.
We have infinite chances to make another choice; mistakes can be corrected and don’t have to define us. While we can’t always go back and pick up another path entirely, we can learn from the choices that had results that we didn’t like to make a better choice the next time.
In the end, all any of us can do is choose how we are and who we are. I, for one, would like to always make good choices. I don’t. When I don’t, I try to learn from that so that I can make choices that are more in line with my intent. And one last thing to think about; I’m not perfect, and if you aren’t either, be compassionate and kind with yourself when you do make less than ideal choices. Choose your intent and a filter through which to view the world. Then choose the actions you want to take to get there. And no matter the result, choose your reaction to whatever follows.