Extended Insights
Extended Insights

May 12, 2014, 15:41

by Michael E. Berrett, PhD

Having grown up surrounded by majestic alpine mountains with the beautiful red rock deserts of Utah close by, I consistently felt that there was nothing more I could ever desire in the "natural environment" which surrounded me and my family. But then, I was introduced and became acquainted with the seashore - the beach - that magical place where ocean and dry land find each other. I found another place of wonder, and serenity, and a place of nourishment for the soul.

One of my favorite experiences and rituals on the beach is the making of "footprints in the sand" which are visible and real, yet also symbolic. In the journey of life, who has not received benefit from the footprints of loved ones, mentors, or heroes. I have certainly been so blessed.

We not only learn from the footprints of others, but we also can make "footprints in the sand" which touch, guide, or inspire another human soul. An instructive quote by an unknown author teaches " It is important to leave footprints in the sand - especially when they are pointed in a commendable direction." As long as we will be leaving a footprint, we may as well be conscious and deliberate about what kind we will leave. I wonder sometimes what kind of footprints I am making, and whether they are worthy as an example to follow for family members or any pilgrim who may travel alongside, or after my journey. This question captures a larger portion of my self-reflection as the years pass by.

Thankfully for us all, a desire to leave a worthy footprint requires no perfection - in fact, footprints are better if they are not perfect. What about the footprint of a child - it is beautiful! I have never thought of a footprint in the sand as an achievement, or something that could be judged or compared, nor something "better than" or "worse than." They are simply footprints. I don't want to compete or compare my footprint against another's. The reality that "I have a well-intended footprint" is more than enough. For each one of us, I hope and pray that our footprint will guide those who may for a time, need influence or direction.

There is something important about making a footprint. There can also be something healing about allowing a footprint to fade away. There can be healing in allowing the waves to come upon the sand, at the right time, and wash away a mark, a print, and something which was written in the sand for us. Two pathways of such healing come to mind: 1) We can write our troubles in the sand, and allow the waves to wash them away. That may bring forgiveness, self-forgiveness, acceptance of hard realities, or the letting go of worries and fear. We can all benefit from letting our troubles disappear, wash away, leaving a new and unmarked beach. 2) I hope also that my footprints might be washed away and disappear in those times when those who have once followed me, need to mark out their own unique path.

Finally, a Native American Indian tradition suggests that life is "A Walking," and that walking backwards hurts us, while walking forward helps us grow. No matter the breadth and depth of our footprint, the ability to "let go" and start anew, or the trajectory of our attempt to "walk forward" - let us keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking one step at a time, with our eye on the dream which is worthy of our desire and our sincerest efforts. You know what your dream is. That is where the footprints lead.

About the Author: Michael E. Berrett, PhD is a Psychologist, and the CEO, Co-founder of Center for Change, Orem, Utah. For more information, contact Center For Change, (888) 224-8250,,

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