Desire Paths

I first read about desire paths in The Old Ways: A Journey by Foot by Robert McFarlane, People and other animals create desire paths when they opt for the shortest, fastest routes to destinations.

Cow paths are the most famous desire paths. The cows take the shortest, fastest route between their pasture and milking time. I have seen flocks of sheep on desire paths too.

Metro Centric, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You have a desire path in your neighbourhood; I’m sure of it. There used to be one a few hundred feet from me in the park behind my house. Before COVID, my neighbours and I would beat the grass down while taking the shortest, fastest route to the bus stop.

This year, that desire path is gone. With COVID, people are either working from home or commuting to work in a different way. The grass is green and full, as if the desire path had never existed.

Park setting
The grass between the tree and the playground is usually trampled into a clear desire path. Not anymore!

Our desires changed so we quickly and effortlessly beat down new desire paths—around our neighbourhood, between our at-home desks and the bathroom, or maybe between our TVs and the refrigerator.

We effortlessly opt for desire paths every day. When we park at the grocery store and walk diagonally across the lot, we take a desire path. When we jaywalk to get to our favourite coffee shop faster, we’re choosing a desire path.

We know where we want to go, nothing holds us back, and we take the steps to get there the fastest. Easy right?

Why are other goals harder to reach?

Why don’t we simply jaywalk to the right career? We should be able to fast-track to the perfect relationship. To lose weight, all we have to do is eat less and exercise more.

But it’s more difficult when the target is uncertain, or when our emotions get in the way, or when the goal feels impossibly out of reach. We travel long, circuitous routes (or maybe never reach a destination) because we become paralyzed with fear, or we don’t believe we deserve love, or we compare our bodies to others.

For those not-so-clear, scary, long-term goals, it might help to:

  1. Place them in your favourite coffee shop in your mind.
  2. Do as the cows and sheep do and never spend one second comparing yourself to others or believing yourself unworthy.
  3. Forge ahead.
  4. Repeat.
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

11 thoughts on “Desire Paths

  1. marianbeaman

    Arlene, you have put into words thoughts I have been thinking about but have not expressed in language written concisely as yours are here.

    One thing about the pitfall of comparison I have lived by: Only compare yourself to the writer you were yesterday, not to others. I didn’t put quotes around this because I can’t cite verbatim, but the essence is there. Thanks for a comforting post, a pastoral scene with a path on which one can forge ahead. 🙂

    Reply
  2. roughwighting

    This is fascinating. I like your ideas about taking a path, and maybe a short cut – to your goals. On the other hand, I’ve found that sometimes, for me, the circuitous route is more fun, and I find a path I didn’t know existed. ❤

    Reply
    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Yes – sometimes we take shortcuts to get to a place as soon as possible, and other times we take long, meandering journeys to explore what lies along the path, like you just did. Both are perfect for their purposes.

      Reply

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