AI-generated image of two trails in the hills overlooking a hilly valley with a storm overhead.

I run into the following scenario occasionally: there’s a problem or inefficiency and I have a decent idea of where the ideal - or at least better - future state is. I can see where this thing should be. The hard part is figuring out the steps needed to get us from here to there.

My crude diagram of what we want versus what we have. The top half shows a perfectly straight diagram from here to there, which is what we want. The bottom half shows the same diagram but the line is a jumbled mess between here and there, which is often what we have.

What I’ve come to learn is I have to set aside time and energy to map the trail. Bear with me as I lean into this analogy a bit more.

Nobody has walked this particular trail before, or else it would already be mapped - we would already know where to go and what to do. There could be trails nearby that look similar but they will always be different in important and sometimes critical ways. The old trail may take us to a different destination, for instance.

Back to our trail.

As we continue down this path we’re on, we may encounter things growing along the trail that need to be trimmed back, things that we once thought were crucial to the survival of the ecosystem. We won’t blantantly cut away anything without first understanding the use of it, but that doesn’t mean we won’t cut it away.

We may also have to make some detours that we didn’t expect, navigating around obstacles. Our trail could change from its original course, but we’ll still be heading in the same direction. Our destination could even slightly change, depending on where our new trail takes us. We just don’t know until we start walking.

We may find that we need to add things to the trail in order to keep moving forward, such as a bridge over a stream we weren’t aware of.

All of these things are perfectly acceptable outcomes. We’re mapping the trail, not following a map. We’re learning as we go, making progress along the way.

This is how I feel a lot of life goes. There’s a destination or end goal out there somewhere, we just have to find the way to it. We have to map the trail.