When You Wonder What to Do Next, Just Walk Away


The mental and emotional value of taking a walk may even outweigh the significant physical benefits. (Photo credit: Johannes Plenio from Pexels)

Maryland Farms in Brentwood, Tennessee encompasses 300 acres of offices, retail stores, restaurants, and hotels. But a generation ago, there were three buildings, a Cadillac dealership (someone knew a lot about demographic trends to have put a car store there!), and a dirt road through some woods. I know because during the spring of 1981, I worked in one of the three buildings.


At the time, I had one of "those" early-career jobs that you’re not sure is taking you where you want to go. What’s worse, I wasn’t even sure where I wanted to go. But the dirt road helped me figure it out.


On multiple lunch hours, my internal struggle pushed me out the door of Building One and onto the road through the woods. The walks I took were a significant pathway to opening my mind to changes I needed—wanted!—to make.


Someone more medically qualified than I could no doubt explain the cardio-vascular and musculoskeletal benefits of walking, but whatever they may be, I believe the mental and emotional value of taking a walk outweigh even the significant physical benefits.


At the time I roamed the former woods of Maryland Farms, my focus was on figuring out my career aspirations. As I’ve said on the Home Page of this blog site, though:


There are a lot of moving parts in the life you want.

Money, work, relationships, hopes, and dreams all have a role,

but no one of them is the final answer.


A manicured parkway now services a hotel and a multi-story office complex where I used to walk at Maryland Farms and in the nearly 40 years since then, countless other walks have delivered insights into all of the above.


On a walk, you’re likely to discover:

  • New angles on the problem of how to make a living

  • Insights into what kind of lifestyle would make your heart sing

  • Direction about an apology you owe to someone

  • How you might need to forgive someone else for a wrong done

  • What you may have missed in a past opportunity and how not to miss it in the future

  • What not to do again so that your personal history doesn’t repeat itself

  • How your priorities need to be rearranged to better serve your spouse, children, friends, and even yourself

  • Why you should rekindle hope that your dreams are possible no matter how little they've come to pass so far.


Walks still make a difference in my life. I recommend them.

I should add that at least two kinds of walks are essential: Those you take by yourself and those you take with at least one other significant person (this means your spouse if you’re married).


Strolling with yourself offers necessary distance between yourself and “usual” so you can consider what sort of Different matters to you. And walking with another person allows you time apart to share ideas, dreams, and potential solutions to anything you’re facing.


I’d like to say something prescriptive and clever like “a walk a day keeps the psychologist away” but in truth, exactly how much to walk is a little less clear than that. Certainly, you should take a walk whenever you feel the need to. I suppose daily—or at least several times a week—would serve to keep needless issues at bay. But for sure, get out when the external pressure of “usual” or the internal stress of wondering what’s next requires it.


Thankfully, these days I have my own unpaved road I call my driveway. It leads to another quiet, unlined road ideal for walks. And right now . . . they're calling to me.

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