Searching Wisely

Kevin Agnew

We are all in a constant search. At times we are seeking a new direction – the courage to step away from our current path to chart a new course on a new road. At times we are seeking peace – the clarity that comes from reconciling our past choices with our present reality. We often seek balance – that over-used word meant to signal an attempt to realign priorities so that we can feel a sense of calm. And, when the going is good, we seek to ride that wave of fortune for as long as it will take us.

We have a choice in how we search. Indeed, it is in how we search that defines much of who we are. Will that search be a solitary endeavor, walking alone amongst the peaks and valleys that come with any arduous journey? Or, will we be brave enough to invite others onto our path, sharing in both the struggles and the triumphs that come with any meaningful search? That choice will have profound ramifications for the shape of a journey.

Many, if not most, walk their path alone. That solitude can be a shield, a protector against the embarrassment that comes from “failure” or feeling lost. Walking in isolation is also what we have been taught – to bear one’s own burdens without complaint or self-pity.

But choosing this route has consequences. The cramped feeling of isolation, the fear, the diminution of joy that comes IMG_3900with walking alone. Choosing to confront life’s challenges alone also prevents you from engaging other journeys, and learning from the sights and sounds of roads you will not travel. At its core, choosing to engage the search by yourself is lonely. The colors are not as bright.

There is another choice. That choice calls for an odd mix of bravery and vulnerability. It is the choice to invite others into your search – to form a tribe of seekers. To get their feedback, their support, their perspective as you make your way down your path. It is brave because its risks rejection. But it is much more than that. It is brave – and vulnerable – because it actually risks being known.


It is being known in confusion – the cold fear that comes from not knowing where you are going. It is being known when you feel stuck – that bitter mix of inertia and fear. It is being known in regret – the cyclical thoughts that come with the magnetic pull of the past. All of those are part of any path and part of any search.

But, you will be known in so much more. You will have partners to lighten your pack when it is too heavy and when your load seems too great. When you are stuck, someone will be there to help you dig out. When you are lost, others will lend a map and help you find a new route.

You will have friends and traveling companions; people in your corner, cheering you on when you hit a good groove and celebrating you when you reach a new peak. And, you will have the ability to root for others – that essential gift that brings so much joy.

For as long as we are walking we will be searching. Seek wisely.

Kevin Agnew is a facilitator of The Collective as well as a professional career coach and an adjunct professor at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law.