My path is not your path [. . .] The way is within us [. . .] If you live your life according to an example, you thus live the life of that example, but who should live your own life if not yourself? So live yourselves [. . .] May each go his own way.— Carl Gustav Jung
We all know someone with that “my-way-or-the-highway” mentality (maybe you are one of those people?), but that approach is ignorant to all of the other valid choices that are possible. Your way might be the correct one—for you. That doesn’t make it the only possible way nor does that mean that it’s the only path that others can take.
I’m with Jung; I believe that there isn’t just one way to reach a particular destination but rather a unique path for each of us. We must forge it as we go. You might prefer to make a road that will get you to your destination the fastest with the fewest obstacles or stops along the way or you might opt for a scenic route past rivers and mountains or along the beach. Perhaps your path is hidden or you’re on a road but don’t know where you’re going yet. All of those things are OK.
What Jung said wasn’t necessarily a new idea, but it’s one that resonates with me because it’s another way of saying live for your soul, which has become my motto. I don’t think Jung was necessarily rejecting the idea of having a mentor or learning from others. It’s more the act of trying too hard be like someone else or relying too much on another that he was advising against. If you constantly need direction from someone or something else, engaging in no critical thinking or self-exploration of your own, then who are you but a poor copy of that other? You essentially have no self. While I am immensely grateful for the people who have mentored me and helped me over the years, super-nerd that I am, I’ve also really enjoyed discovering things on my own. Jung seems to advocate just that—figuring out who you are, what your soul desires, nourishing that soul, and allowing that to guide you. Put another, simpler way, what works for one person may not necessarily work for you. Maybe you and that person aren’t even trying to get to the same place, so if you try to follow their route, you’ll just get horribly lost.
The other notion that comes to mind for me as I think about this is that there may not even be just one path for you. As you forge ahead, you may take a wrong turn (although we can also debate whether or not it’s really a wrong turn) or encounter detours and other roadblocks along the way. If you hang on to the belief that there’s only one way to get where you want to, that sort of rigid thinking not only inhibits growth and change but also causes you to become stuck so that when you come to one of those blocks or detours, you get angry, frustrated, and distraught because you’re unable to (or perhaps refuse to) see the many other possible avenues that are before you. You can stubbornly try to push on through the muck, sinking deeper into it in the process, but at some point, you need to ask yourself if maybe there isn’t another way to get where you’re going. If you can be flexible, then instead of getting mired where you stand, you can turn around and find a different path instead. Whatever way you go, it’s not wrong as long as it’s your own.