On the perils of dismantling your compass

Synopsis: Every human being has a built-in compass or GPS. Sometimes we don’t like what it says (or doesn’t say), so we start taking it apart. Here’s why that’s neither necessary nor a good idea.


Have you ever looked to your inner compass and come up empty? 

And then, perhaps, you went to work on yourself, trying to get clarity, looking for answers, doing your best to figure out out what’s wrong with you that keeps you from finding your way?

Maybe you were (or are) looking for more purpose, or thinking you need to develop something in your business, or that you need to get back to dating, or have a difficult conversation with a partner, or a spouse? It could be something that you’ve been tying to get yourself to do but failing, like running, keeping your desk clean, painting, tracking your expenses, or eating differently.

Perhaps you sense on some level that the way forward is going to come from the inside. But when you look inside, you’re not getting any help, at least that’s how it seems. And so, again, you keep looking for answers. What’s wrong with my internal GPS? What’s wrong with me that I’m not getting the guidance I need? That I don’t have clarity?

The image of navigating through a dense fog with a compass showed up as I was working with clients on this frustration. There’s enough light, enough clarity, to see the compass. And you have a decent sense of what direction you want to go. For example, you want to go north, and the compass reliably points to north.

But  you don’t like the compass reading, so you ignore or override it, and you get lost.

And let’s imagine at that point you take your compass apart. You shake it, maybe pry off the cover, fiddle it with it, then put it back together. If you’re lucky you haven’t broken it. It still points to north.

Taking the compass apart doesn’t help. At best, the compass will continue to point in the same direction. At worst, you break the compass.

Analyzing ourselves when we’re not getting the answers we think we want from our internal compass is like taking the compass apart. It isn’t going to help. Sometimes the clarity you seek is actually there, it just doesn’t match your preconception of the clarity you want or expect.

Sometimes, it seems it’s just not time to move forward on a project, and you can look to your inner compass until hell freezes over, and you’re still not going to get insights into how to move forward. Instead, you’re going to get insights into staying still, or doing something else, which is maddening. So you shake the compass, you take it apart, you blow on the needle, but nothing happens!

And then one day, it all looks different. Did the compass change? Probably not. But somehow your own state of mind, your own level of awareness, shifted enough that you could see the intelligence, the perfection, and the information you had all along.

I’m curious what you make of this. As always this is just a metaphor, it’s a pointer to the way we work. It’s not an injunction to believe what I say, it’s an invitation to get curious about what’s going on when you’re not getting the answers you think you want? Could it be that your compass is working just fine, and that for a moment you’ve forgotten to trust that perfectly reliable needle that’s pointing to the north? Let me know what you find!

1 Comment

  1. Debra Davis

    Hi Molly,
    This has happened to me in a non-metaphorical sense. I use map and compass in my job and a few times I’ve gotten so turned around that I didn’t believe the instruments. It was a temporary loss of perspective, a scrambling of what I was seeing and where I thought the way should be. Very unsettling, almost to the point of panic. Staying put wasn’t an option so each time I made the leap of faith and trusted the compass. It has worked every single time. And I could always look back and see where my thinking went off kilter.

    The navigation metaphor is a great one for this path we’re on…with peaks and valleys and intersections and thickets and landmarks and blind corners, etc.

    Thanks for these videos–so often they’re right on time for me. And it’s nice to see and hear you.

    Reply

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