Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
In the poem “The Road Not Taken” (1916), Robert Frost is confronted with two paths in the woods that appear similar, and he chooses to walk down one (maybe the more challenging), predicting that he will, in the future, appreciate the difference it has made in his life.1
The philosopher Robert Kane has a way of talking about these life-defining moments; they are “self-forming actions.” Kane’s idea is that our truest expressions of ourselves come at moments in which our will is divided.2 At such moments, we could go either of two ways, but we go one way. In doing so, we help set in place some feature of ourselves—the feature that aligns with the chosen path.
In the case of Frost, the other path would have “made all the difference” too. In that case, Frost’s future self would remember some other difference in the paths to justify his choice, and that would have been woven into his life story. But the story would have been different.
For Kane, the effort of choosing between two options creates conflict. The result is a self-forming action in two respects. I am responsible for forming the action, whatever the outcome, by putting my efforts behind each of two opposing outcomes and forcing a resolution. And the outcome helps to shape my future self, in that it favors one of two conflicting motivations.
The choices we make, make us.
This is true for individuals as well as companies. In a company, each decision and action by an employee (or leader) of the company creates a piece of the future “self” of that business. We have a core value at Kimray that acknowledges this fact: maintaining a good name. We believe that our actions today will impact the perceived reality of tomorrow. We understand that there will be choices to make that are difficult, and we purpose to choose the “path” that leads to a favorable reputation in the larger business community. We are not so much what we say we are; we become what we actually do.
The same holds true for the individual. We are constantly faced with conflicting choices. Having a clear vision for what we want to be true about ourselves can help clarify the better choice in each case. This process involves choosing between an old way of living and a new way of living. In other words, I am creating my future “self” through my actions and choices.
We are going to make mistakes individually and corporately. Those mistakes do impact our future, often in ways we will never fully know. The miracle for those of us who follow Christ is the promise that even the bad choices we make will eventually be redeemed and used by God to mold our future self. And through us, God will mold Kimray too.