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Three Directions Every Purposeful Journey Needs

“The Stream”

Imagine a journey with no packing, no airport security, and no overtired-yet-astonishingly-loud children. Sounds easy, but this type of travel’s tough stuff. In fact, this journey of self-development challenges our strength as we discover who we are and what we’re meant to do.

It’s traveling inward, outward, and back home again.

Kinda sounds like we’re going in a circle, right?

Sort of, but this is no simple circle. Where we start and end may be the same, but are we the same? Luckily, nature recently provided me the perfect explanation . . . and it begins at a beach in Cape Cod.

It was our first morning there, and of course we headed for the sand. But sand is all we got—it seemed the ocean was also on vacation.

All we could see of it was approaching the horizon. After ruling out an early-stage tsunami, we learned it was just a typical low tide. So low that it causes tidal flats two miles out in some places.1

So there we were, standing on what had been the ocean floor a few hours earlier, and ready for a unique, seabed exploration. But we weren’t alone in our quest.

Yes, there were other vacationers primed for a laidback adventure, but it was a small yet long stream of water that held my attention.


This stream had begun its life as part of the ocean, but as the water had receded at low tide it had stayed behind, amidst some rocks at the back of the beach.

But it refused to be swallowed by the sand or settle for a new identity as a tide pool.

And in that decision it gained a mission to return to its source, a better stream than it was before.


When the stream met obstacles on this mission, it’d calmly go over or around them.

And when my toes etched a deep-valley trap in its sandy path, more water from some secret, sub-beach reserve arrived instantly to help. Joining with our stream, it added the necessary volume and force to escape the pit I’d created.

Onward the stream went, with a purpose.

But something interesting was happening along its journey—it was bringing joy to others. It served as a splashing opportunity in the middle of a sandy expanse, “glue” for sandcastles, and a refreshing path for feet of all sizes to walk.  

Back Home Again

So why did our little stream do all this? Why did it leave its home, accept a challenging mission, persevere through obstacles, and serve others along the way?

Because it answered the call. The same call each of us receives at some point in life—the call to discover and live our purposes and return to our Source better than we were before.

Inward, we explore our true selves and discover our powers for good—in their rough, unfinished form. Outward, we use struggles as a polishing cloth for those powers, putting them into service as we continue our journey.

But we’re not alone. Help arrives to keep us from falling into the pits until we reach the end—back home again.

As for the stream, it made it back to the ocean, its starting point. But it arrived changed, having both offered and gained much on its journey. So as we all hear and answer our own calls and begin the toughest of all journeys, may we keep our hearts open and our hands extended.

And just keep going . . .

Where are you on your big journey? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!

And for more on journeying, visit this post from last summer:  “Journey vs. Path: Five Guidelines for Living Without a Master Plan.”


1 Setterlund, Christopher. “The Changing Shape of the Cape & Islands: The tidal flats of Brewster, Orleans, & Eastham.” September/October 2016. https://capecodlife.com/the-changing-shape-of-the-cape-islands-the-tidal-flats-of-brewster-orleans-eastham/

2 Gratitude to Joseph Campbell for his concept of “the hero’s journey” (The Hero with a Thousand Faces), its inspiration in my life, and its contribution to the framework of this blog post.

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