When you want to get somewhere in life—literally or figuratively—you have two basic options. You can follow a map or you can follow a compass. Both are excellent tools for the job, but one method will yield more of the results you seek. We will discuss both options.
The Map Option
Using a map seems like the obvious choice. It is efficient and takes advantage of known routes and landmarks. It lays out a path from point A to point B. Terrific if you are driving from Los Angeles to New York City or outlining the necessary steps to becoming a doctor, but not so great when you’re trying to follow your heart dreams.
You see, maps have an inherent drawback: they are only as accurate as the data collected to make them, and as the person making the map.
So what do you do if you want to go somewhere where no one has ever been before?
The Compass Option
A compass does one thing. And it does it really well. It points north. That’s it. It points north all day, every day, 24/7. Never wavering.
North. North. North. Still north. North. And north. Let’s see…north. North. Yep, north.
If I want to travel from Mexico to Canada, all I need to do is follow the compass and eventually I will get there. Now, I may have no idea of which roads to take, which exits or turns to take. The compass may lead me over mountains, across streams, or through fields. The path may be smooth and easy in parts and perilous and difficult in others. But so long as I follow the heading, I will get there.
So it is with our life and our dreams.
You can choose to follow a map laid out by someone else. And sometimes that can be useful. But in the end it isn’t YOUR map. And heaven forbid if you choose a wrong map—especially one not aligned with your values.
Better instead to open up your inner compass. Decide what your true north is. Look at where your heart wants to go. See where your needle is pointing and start moving in that direction. It might not be the smoothest path and the journey may take longer than you expect, but if you keep stepping you will eventually get to where you truly want to be.
Note: This concept was illustrated to me by coach and author Ali Campbell at a recent workshop he put on with Michael Neill. A lot of great insights were shared that evening.