This is a guest post by David Brannon.
Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” is famous for being posted in guidance offices in high schools everywhere. The classic inspirational poster often depicts a mountain range or other breathtaking landscape accompanied by the final lines of the poem: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” The insinuation is to be unique; however, Frost’s poem really tells the story of an old man who realizes that life is made up of decisions that change one’s course but are arbitrary in that one chose a certain path over another. In other words, Frost says that vision, or the idea that a person can have a life plan with a specific set of circumstances planned for the future, is ultimately futile because new opportunities and obstacles will be presented with each new day. To a large degree, Frost is correct in that life is constantly changing, and we would do best to learn to navigate the tempest of living rather than demand that life change according to our preferences.
Though the idea that vision is irrelevant can seem abrasive, this notion can actually give us insight into how to enjoy the spontaneity of life while setting ourselves up for success in the long term. We might not know exactly where we will be in 20 years, but we can ensure that we will be happy down the road. Whereas an orderly plan and vision is vital in virtually every career field, life is too massive and extraordinary to submit to our whims. In order to maximize lifelong satisfaction, an individual should do three things: know himself, know the value of hard work, and know his individual sovereignty.
1. Know Yourself
Each of us has our own God-given skills and abilities; consequently, we each have a job or responsibility that fits our idiosyncrasies. As complex, unique individuals, we have duties to discover our own characteristics, talents, weaknesses, strengths, and capacities. By testing ourselves through experience, we can better understand under what conditions we thrive best and how to ensure sound decision-making. If a job opportunity presents itself, the astute individual knows himself well enough to decide whether to take the offer. This same principle applies to relationships, college, and financial risks, as well. Learn about yourself, and you will learn which path is suitable for you.
2. Know the Value of Hard Work
The greatest luxury in life is having choice. Yet, options only present themselves to those who seek to uncover them. Just as liberty and choices increase in proportion to wealth, one’s available options increase when one works hard in the workplace, at school, and at home. Effort is the necessary ingredient for any success story. Learn to develop persistence, and you will never run out of available opportunities to pursue success.
3. Know the Sovereignty of the Individual
You are a divine creation in a world where liberty is constantly expanding and individuals are consistently able to chase their dreams. Realize that you are the one in control of your life. Nearly every decision that impacts you is decided mostly by you. Nevertheless, with great power, comes great responsibility. Having control over your actions means that you must also accept the results of your decision-making. If you are the one in charge, you are the one to be held accountable for success and failure. With this in mind, do not be afraid to branch off from the status quo and take risks on untouched trails.
In conclusion, life is neither an animal that can be tamed, nor a clear-cut path from Point A to Point B. Throughout your journey, you will encounter forks-in-the-road, dead ends, and various barriers. To overcome these, you must master the art of improvisation and tenacity in intimidating and overwhelming situations. Set specific, short-range goals for yourself, but do not get bogged down in long-term planning. Learn about yourself to earn the self-confidence that you will make decisions wisely. Strive to put your utmost effort into every area of life, and you will see your possibilities multiply. Finally, empower yourself through the knowledge that you are capable of making decisions and taking responsibility for your own achievements and shortcomings. Just like the speaker in Frost’s poem, you will look back on your life unable to describe how or why you arrived where you are. Nonetheless, by keeping these principles in mind throughout your life, you will find yourself in a more prosperous, invigorating state than you could have ever previously imagined.
David Brannon is a senior at Lakeside High School. He is a small-busineness owner and community volunteer. David will be attending Harvard University next year to study History and Literature. He likes studying the humanities, economics, law, and politics. David also enjoys reading, playing golf, kayaking, and spending time with his friends and family. He hopes to one day enter government or business to help individuals realize their potential.