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Following the Unknown Path – Gifts, Trip-Ups, and Payoffs

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? This post is about following the unknown path, the one that’s scary, mysterious, and potentially full of rewards as well as challenges. There are many gifts, trip-ups, and payoffs to pursue the uncommon option.

There are many known paths – you go to school for a certain amount of time, complete a certain amount of units, and you get a bachelor’s degree. You pass a test, and you get a driver’s license. You say “yes” to the proposal, and you end up getting married. You sign up for a trip, pay your fees, and off you go to Italy. Those things are relatively predictable. There’s a prescribed series of steps, and a pre-ordained outcome.

But what about the rest of it – the pursuit of peace, freedom, wealth, happiness and health? There are a lot of courses that seem predictable that turn out to be not so predictable. You go to graduate school and get a Ph.D. and discover you still can’t get a job. You have unprotected sex for a year, and you’re still not pregnant. You start a surefire business and the concept goes out of fashion before you’re even open. You take all of the prescribed medications, and still your diabetes gets so bad you have to take insulin. You buy a quiet little house in a quirky neighborhood, and discover that it’s not so quiet after all. Then what do you do?

Instead of freaking out and stopping dead in your tracks, I propose that you pause, examine the trip-ups, and then look at the gifts and pay-offs of the experience, and re-orient yourself along a new path. Maybe in retrospect you realize that you didn’t plan adequately, your market research was incorrect, or you were unrealistic about your physical condition and the impact of your chronic disease. These realizations are lessons in how to better prepare yourself for success when you make your next moves.

Take some time to consider the pay-offs of what you’ve done so far, even though, ultimately, you didn’t get the result you were looking for. Maybe you’ve got an education that serves well as background for another profession, you learned a whole lot more about how real estate or entrepreneurship works, or you have gathered information that’s useful to your doctor in helping you chart the best course of action. Maybe you gained new friends who love and support you, or you learned that you really hate being in charge or meeting daily deadlines. Those weren’t the original goals of your project or pursuit, but they’re gifts (pay-offs) nonetheless. Time spent going down “the wrong path” is not necessarily wasted, unless you fail to extract the lessons of your experiences.

The other thing that often ends up feeling like failure is taking the failed outcome and treating it as if it’s a dead-end, instead of a turning off point for the next experience, choice, or path. By continuously reevaluating your choices and experiences, and treating them as valuable information sources, rather than failures, you’ll be able to move forward with more ease, feeling enriched by your experiences, rather than robbed of time or resources.

Gretchen Kubacky, Psy.D. is a Health Psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California. She has completed the inCYST training. She specializes in counseling women and couples who are coping with infertility, PCOS, and related endocrine disorders and chronic illnesses.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. HOUSE or her practice, or obtain referrals in the Los Angeles area, please visit her website at, or e-mail her at You can also follow her on Twitter @askdrhousemd.

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Following the Unknown Path – Gifts, Trip-Ups, and Payoffs + trip