The Road Not Taken Analysis: 3 Ways to Choose

By Carl J de Wet

Like a traveler in the woods, what do we do when life throws us two paths and we need to choose one. All to often the paths look similar and there is not enough information to know which is best. How are we going to do the road not taken analysis? Of course, we look down each opportunity as far as we can see, but the difficult decision stays with us.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost (1874–1963)
(The full poem is shown below.)

When I read this poem, I think about how difficult it is to make the right choices. And think about which choice will be the better one when we face different paths as we journey through our lives. I wonder: How do we know which is the road “less traveled by”? And, how do we know which road that “has made all the difference”?

Perhaps a better question is: What philosophy do we have for our life that helps us choose our path?

To guide us in the road not taken analysis let us explore some roads “less traveled by”.

1. The tortoise or the hare?

When we watch the Olympic Games, the hare always wins. And so, it seems, that life’s prizes go to the strongest and fittest. Winners may win the big day thinking like a hare, but many winners prepare for the race day thinking like a tortoise.

The philosophy of the hare is the popular “get results NOW” philosophy, and this philosophy is linked to instant gratification. While the philosophy of the tortoise is to focus on daily actions and habits to create a result in time. The hare seeks shorter term results using high levels of will power and effort, whilst the tortoise focusses on results over a longer term by consistently doing little things that over time create incremental and progressive progress. Each, and every day, the tortoise increases the chances of success.

The philosophy of the tortoise is the road “less travelled by” and most people won’t do those daily actions because each daily action or habit does not seem to make a difference. These actions can appear so simple and insignificant that if the action or habit is not done today, then it does not seem to make a difference. In his book, The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson points out that: “Those two Slight Edge curves, the success curve and the failure curve, run parallel to each other for a long time. The two paths may be so close together that it’s almost impossible for most people even to see the distinction between them.”

2. “When the world says, “Give up”, hope whispers, “Try it one more time”. ”      Author Unknown

Here are two of my experiences:
• I was very bad at swimming as a child, and I wanted to participate in races that required swimming. It took me twelve years of patient progress to be able to glide through the water.
• One of my dreams is to create a great blog, and it has taken six years to create blogs that are in line with my vision.
Both learning to swim and finding my place in the world of internet marketing took years of frustration and many stumbles along the way.

What is our philosophy around persistence with a goal and all the failures along the way?

Failure can be a painful, humiliating and expensive experience. There is nothing easy about dealing with failure. BUT, when those “bad” things happen:
Do we make excuses? Is failure a message to give up?
, OR,
Is failure part of the information that teaches us how to correct our course on the journey to our dreams.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas A. Edison

In his book, The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson explains that we can use each win and each failure to provide new information to course correct and get closer to our goals and dreams.

Failing and standing up to “try one more time” is the road “less travelled by”.

3. It’s Up to Me

It is common to take responsibility for our successes, and blame others or blame circumstances for our failures. And to do the opposite can be depressing: Give others credit for our success, and take responsibility for our failure.

The philosophy of the road “less travelled by” is to take responsivity for both: we are responsible for both our wins and our failures.

The Road Not Taken Analysis: Be Like the Farmer

In historic times we were hunters and farmers. Much like the farmer we sow the seeds, we spend many months cultivating and nurturing our crop, and give thanks when we harvest. Like the farmer we must trust the results will be there at the end of the season. In conclusion, a great philosophy is to consistently do the little things that over time to create incremental and progressive progress, and the trust the process will bring results.




Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.