Guidance at the Fork in the Road

By Sabrina Bong — One of my friends recently called me, distraught about the way things were going in her life. She told me everything that was going wrong, and then tearfully asked me to help solve her problems.

“I can’t solve your problems,” I told her. “I’ll help you figure something out, but I can’t solve them.”

“But you’re a counselor!” she said emphatically. “Aren’t you supposed to tell me what to do? Isn’t that why you became a counselor, to tell people how to fix their lives?”

It was an interesting set of questions that took me a little aback. Not that I had never been asked why I want to be a counselor – that usually comes up within the first few minutes of me meeting someone and explaining my current life path – but never before have I been asked if I became a counselor to tell people how to fix their lives.

I am a big fan of books that teach people how to live their life. One of my favorites is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Instead of withdrawing from those around him and cloistering himself until he died, he wrote an inspiring lecture. In his lecture, he didn’t talk about death. Instead, he talked about life and living each day to the fullest extent possible. In the book, he gave bits of wisdom and advice on different situations, whether it was how to manage your time or overcome the “brick walls” that serve as obstacles in our lives. I recommend this book, or at least listening to the lecture online, to everyone.

I don’t recommend these books to tell people what to do with their lives. Though I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life, I don’t claim to know what is best to do in each and every circumstance. Instead, I recommend these books because I believe everyone needs a little time to remember what is important in life. Jobs and finances and relationships are important, but I believe love and honesty and integrity are paramount. I also think these books provide an interesting perspective on taking control of your life, the idea that you, and only you, can control your destiny. To me, there are two types of people in this world. There are the people who let their circumstances control them, and they believe that there is no way out. And then there are the people who take charge of their lives and manifest their destinies. They realize that the only thing holding them back from accomplishing whatever dream they have is themselves.

The same thing could be said about counseling. In my opinion, counseling isn’t about telling people what exactly they should do with their lives. Counseling is about listening to others and helping them find solutions for their problems. It is a relationship formed through empathy and a desire to change. Sometimes, it is literally just reminding about what is important in life.

It is a crucial lesson to remember, especially as we approach the holiday season.

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