Don’t Stop Short: Continue Exploring

Earlier this year, I went on a walkabout in Sequoia National Park. I spent one week wandering off trail in the backcountry, questing for a deeper experience of connection to nature and trust in myself. I walked only as far as the land would support, subsisting solely on the food that I could forage and the energy that I could summon to walk deeper into the truths about my life that
were being reflected by the natural world around me.

Upon returning to my life and work in Berkeley, I committed to spending one day each month on walkabout in the hills surrounding the Bay Area. My intention was, and still is, to maintain my connection to nature, myself, and the universal energy that moves in all things. I know that nature is an unending source of inspiration and insight, always available to anyone willing to listen.
Still, without a date blocked out on my calendar, I end up looking out the window at nature instead of looking at my authentic self in nature.

The most meaningful insight from my latest walkabout presented itself before I even set foot on the trail. Driving through the Oakland hills, I found myself getting increasingly suspicious of the clear and well-researched directions with every sweeping curve of the road that continued longer than my patience.

Assuming that I missed the turnoff, I stopped, checked the map and directions again, turned around and drove back the way I came for a few minutes. I didn’t see any possible turnoffs that I
could have missed so I turned back around again and kept going further into the hills. A few minutes later, I was sure that I was going in the wrong direction and getting more frustrated with
every turn. I noticed myself fantasizing about the hike in West Marin that I decided not to take, questioning my selection of this trail in Oakland, and wondering how I could salvage my day.

The next pullout was the trailhead. Humbled by my skittishness but relieved nonetheless, I stumbled out of the car through the parking lot of my frustration and onto the trail.

As I walked, I reflected on my experience of getting there… I realized that especially when I am in a new and unfamiliar place, I would do well to give myself a little bit of extra room to explore. Doing so would take the pressure off and make the journey more enjoyable.

I also learned that if I had stopped short before fully exploring the path I was on, I would have missed what turned out to be a beautiful walkabout in one of the few redwood forests in the East Bay. For the rest of the day, I was rewarded with more beauty, stillness and connection, every time that I urged myself to wander a little farther from the trail into the heart of the forest.

Don’t stop short. Continue exploring.

How does this insight from my walkabout apply to your life and career?

As a career coach, I can’t help but attempt to translate my experiences into something growth producing. The biggest application that I see for anyone reading this article is as a reminder to be open to exploring. Most people are quick to rule out a potential career path or a new direction in their current career because something early on in their exploration didn’t meet their expectations.

When it falls short, they stop short.

But… how do you know that the path you are exploring (or considering) is the wrong path? How do you know that it won’t lead you to A Path That Fits further down the road?

My clients often find their path by exploring one opportunity that reveals a previously unforeseeable path that then becomes their new career. It isn’t possible to see all of the paths that await
you further down the trail while you are still standing in the parking lot. Sometimes you have to trust your initial calling and continue exploring through your doubts before you can find A Path
That Fits. Don’t stop short. Continue exploring. Who knows what you will find?

Adrian Klaphaak is the founder of A Path That Fits, a career coaching practice in Berkeley and San Francisco. Visit www.APathThatFits.com for more information.

Operation School Bell Celebrates 15 Year Anniversary

Operation School Bell

Operation School Bell began in 1958 when a teacher in the Los Angeles school district saw children from one family coming to school on a rotating basis. She discovered that the children came to school based on whose turn it was to wear the clothes that day. What began as a one-woman effort to provide clothing to disadvantaged children has emerged as the national philanthropic program for Assistance League.
 
Today, Assistance League has over 120 chapters throughout the nation, each one adapting Operation School Bell to meet the ever increasing needs of those children in their communities who are at risk. Since February of 1994, Assistance League of Diablo Valley, located at 2711 Buena Vista Avenue in Walnut Creek, has outfitted children with clothing, shoe cards, and dental care kits to encourage improved school attendance, citizenship, and academic performance. In more recent years, Assistance League of Diablo Valley has partnered with school districts in the Contra Costa community in order to provide mandated uniforms.
 
Operation School Bell’s success obviously lies in its ability to respond in a relatively short period of time as well as its insightfulness when anticipating the needs of children. ”Caring and Commitment in Action” springs to life when volunteer members don blue bibbed aprons, take clip boards in hand, and greet elementary school children intent on power shopping. As they enter the annex, their eager young eyes take in walls lined with racks from floor to ceiling that hold pants, sweatshirts, skorts, and jackets as well as boxes crammed with bundled socks and underwear, and grooming kits.
 
Following one child aided by an Assistance League member volunteer repeats a story that is as tireless as it is timeless. That child musters cutting-edge decision making strategies when selecting the one sweatshirt that tells him he can achieve anything and become anyone he so chooses. When hunting down that perfect pair of jeans with a scrutiny a pathologist would envy, he still has the need to confirm his choice with the lady wearing the blue apron.  As the youngster reaches for his shopping bag that is jammed beyond capacity, he takes one last glance in the mirror and declares, “Now, I’m ready”!
 
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