What to Do When You Take a Wrong Turn

I was recently on the phone with a personal-growth author while she was driving to her son’s soccer game. We were discussing her latest book when she suddenly said, “Oops! I took a wrong turn! Can I call you back?” A few minutes later she called to say she was back on track, and we resumed our conversation (until she reached the soccer field).

Maybe it’s because we’d been discussing personal-growth topics, but we both thought that this wrong turn was a great metaphor:

We ALL take wrong turns sometimes!

The question is: What do you do when this happens?

  • Do you bang on the steering wheel and curse yourself for being so careless?
  • Do you blame the “stupid” road signs and/or faulty directions?
  • Do you refuse to admit that you took a wrong turn, and obstinately continue the way you’re going?
  • Do you step on the gas and go speeding as fast as you can in this wrong direction?

Hopefully, you don’t (although I admit I’ve fallen into point #2 on occasion).

None of these approaches helps you. They just make you feel bad, they waste your time and energy (and gas), and they certainly don’t get you back on track.

The most helpful course of action is very simple and straightforward:

  • First, recognize that you’ve taken a wrong turn–that you’re heading in the wrong direction.
  • If you know where you are, turn the car around until you’re back on track.
  • If you’re lost, stop and ask for directions.

(And, of course, you have to know where you want to go–otherwise, you could end up in some rather comical/surreal conversations: “Hi, can I get directions?” “OK, directions to where?” “I don’t know.”)

It seems so simple when we look at it in terms of driving, but what happens when you take “wrong turns” in your own life–actions and/or decisions that don’t lead to your desired destination?

  • Do you expend a lot of energy needlessly berating yourself (and/or others)?
  • Do you deny that there’s a problem–that you’re not heading where you intended to go? (“Yes, of course I meant to drive past the exit and go over the bridge!”)
  • Or are you humble and wise enough to recognize the wrong turn, get help if you need it, take action to get back on track, and learn from the experience?

Most of the time, wrong turns are no big deal–especially if you catch them fairly soon. My author-friend, for instance, found her way back to the soccer field and arrived in time to see her son’s game. And now she’ll know the way for next time–and be able to help anyone else who might need directions (including what to watch out for: e.g., “If you see a post office, you’ve gone too far!”).

Also, remember that sometimes “wrong turns” can lead you somewhere even more wonderful than your original intended destination. Sometimes, “mistakes” can turn out to be some of the most fortuitous events of your life. So don’t be too quick to label something a “wrong turn”–even if it feels that way at first.

But even if it is a wrong turn, that’s OK, too. Unlike most highways and busy intersections, in life, U-turns are always permitted!

When was the last time you made a wrong turn? How did you get back on track? Have you ever made a “wrong turn” that led somewhere even better than where you’d planned to go? I’d love to hear your comments and experiences!

3 thoughts on “What to Do When You Take a Wrong Turn

  1. That is so true! In fact, I don’t think I ever considered myself on the wrong track or in the wrong direction. Even when it happens while I’m driving, I kind of enjoy it and play the game trying to find my way back. I don’t panic or get upset. After all, who knows? I might have just escaped a dangerous accident!

  2. Thank you for this article. I recently took a wrong turn in life. I was doing a very good job and everything was good. But as a natural worrier and a perfectionist i always used to beat my self up for little mistakes. And then I would try to find a solution to my problems. But the thing was there were no real problems, except for the ones in my head. Instead of being grateful I was looking for problems to solve. So one day I decided I was in the wrong career. I think this idea was planted in my head by a psysic. So at one point when i was in a good place and would have possibly been promoted i quit to go do some studies. But after quitting and moving, for one reason or anothr I couldn’t quite sit my self down for studies. And after i had left, most people that i was in alignment with had also left.And I have been feeling very unhappy since and feels like i have taken a very wrong path. Its almost like i no longer have the support from the universe. And it feels like somehow me moving had a big influence on alot of people around me. Like the universe had set up.the perfect scenario for me, but i didn’t follow through. I feel like I am going against my heart now and it getting quite difficult to live each day with regret. I wish i could go back. But I don’t know that I can. It is a very good life lesson for me in being grateful, listening to the advice of the people that love me and going with the flow of the universe. I think it is always a good idea to let things happen as thwy should.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Nadi. I’m sorry to hear about the disappointment you experienced after you quit your job. It’s true, not all “turns” immediately lead us to a wonderful, joyous place. But I know that the universe has not abandoned you — and never will. And even if you can’t return to your old job (or can you?), you can take the VERY VALUABLE lessons you’ve learned as you move forward with your life now and in the future — especially being grateful, listening to your heart, and going with the flow. Perhaps those lessons — and the future decisions you make as a result of having learned them (and LIVING by them) — will lead you to a better place than you’ve ever been — perhaps even better than what you imagined when you left your job to pursue your studies. Please know how wise and how loved you are — and that it will all work out.

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