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  • Rich Haglund

Navigating (is) Life

Life happens as we're navigating its uncertainties. And life becomes more abundant because we choose to navigate rather than steer away from them.


Erin Goodsell, managing counsel at Qualtrics, gave a talk to women lawyers last year about navigating life's uncertainties. I'll share two ideas from her talk that stood out to me. (You can find the text and the 22 minute video of her talk online.)


First, life happens in the present moment, as we're navigating through uncertainty. Goodsell shared how she and her husband "felt like we were totally off track from our plans" for "real life" as they "impatiently trudg[ed] along" for several years between law school and getting to a place where she loved her law firm practice.

I was wrong. . . Our "real" life--even if it isn't our ideal life--is right here, right now. There is no other life, no better life, lying in wait until some past problem resolves or future event materializes. Eckhart Toll put it most bluntly: "Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is life itself, it is an insane way to live."

Second, we each have to identify our own North Star and navigate toward it in our own individual way. Judges and lawyers regularly look to "precedent" to justify their decisions and arguments. This was the pattern Goodsell felt inclined to follow for most of her life, including as she began to explore her career interests. But that left her falling into a typical trap: clinging to things she "knew from previous experience she was good at and avoid[ing] activities in which success was uncertain."


At a time when she was daunted by the prospect of trying and developing skills in new areas to progress in her career, Goodsell took up running. Despite a lack of innate talent and the fear of how awkward she'd probably look to observers, Goodsell's running brought improved physical and mental health and an enriched circle of friendships. That experience instilled Goodsell with the courage to seek out the new professional skills that mattered most working with tech companies.


In her talk, Goodsell explained, "no other woman, friend, neighbor, teacher, family member, church leader, mentor, advisor--no one--has ever lived your life." Goodsell invited us to trust our own "ability to meet the challenges of unfamiliar territory, and trust your judgment and intuition as you make your own navigational decisions." She concluded,

You are the foremost authority on your own life. . . Please remember that you don't need anyone's permission to think what you think, feel what you feel, want what you want, or be who you are.

What can you learn in and from the uncertainties and challenges you're currently navigating?

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