When You Can’t See Where You’re Heading

Nov 3, 2022 | Coaching, Identity

“A meandering path, often unicursal, with a singular path leading to a center.”

That’s how the Labyrinth Society defines the walking maze that is their namesake. What’s interesting to me is that the path is both singular—as in there’s one right way to the end—yet also meandering—as in you can’t see where you’re going to end up.

I’m late to the labyrinth scene, having the experience of walking one only recently. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary with a foliage trip to New Hampshire, at a rental cabin on a farm. On the neighboring field, the dairy farmers next door had designed a circuitous maze lined with gravel and flanked by native plants and wildflowers.

It looked deceptively small. We figured it would be a few quick minutes of strolling before we headed for home on check-out day. I requested silence. We began.

I had assumed the path was a simple spiral that led steadily inward, that I knew all the twists and turns before starting, and that we’d be heading in one direction, counterclockwise, the entire time.

I quickly realized that switchbacks were common, with the path turning back on itself multiple times. Although I had a general sense of where we’d end, there was no way to gauge how we’d get there, or how long the journey would take. At the ground level, we had little perspective and could not see the end. A drone or an arial photo would have provided that.

We finally did reach the center and spent a few moments in quiet appreciation.

On the drive back to Boston, it struck me that for many physicians, daily life is like walking a labyrinth. We keep walking the gravel path, not sure where the twists and turns will be. And for those in clinical practice right now, they’re often too busy and too tired to find the drone or photo that might give a perspective on the journey.

This is where coaching is so powerful. It provides the space to be intentional about seeking the larger perspective, the arial view of our journey—personal, professional, or both. We get a broader view, we see options before invisible, we make the connections between where we want to be and what we need to do to get there.

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? If so, what did you learn? I’d love to hear!

And if you’d like to be more intentional about where you’re heading and why, I’m a great guide. Drop me a line.


Diane W. Shannon


Diane Shannon is an award-winning writer, author, and coach. Since leaving practice as a primary care physician due to burnout, she has worked to support physicians in achieving their personal and professional goals and to highlight the changes needed to reduce burnout, improve career satisfaction, and protect the bidirectional healing power of the patient-physician relationship.

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Diane W. Shannon, MD, MPH, PCC

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