Using a Compass Instead of a Map

Each year rolls around with a fresh start and a fresh sheet of paper with a list of a thousand things I “will” or “must” achieve in the following 12 months. Now, as a self-professed self-help junkie, I can honestly say that each list is meticulously planned and thought out.  

Each resolution is a "smart" goal, aligned with my values, chunked down into smaller action items. I’ve had accountability partners, written lists and blogs, set timeframes, had weekly sit-downs, the works. And very rarely have I achieved the planned outcome.

Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So this year I’m going to try a new method. I’m going to use a compass.


The Problem with the Map


My previous methods have held too much structure and as a somewhat fluid, messy, creative person, I find it hard to stick to the plan. But there’s another side to it. I call it life. You can’t map out your life and I’m starting to realise that you probably shouldn’t bother trying. Life is what it is and you can’t control the external happenings. You can decide you want something and life can provide you with a completely different result.

Emergent Ideas

In reality, once you start something new, you don’t really know what will come of it. You know the basics and where you want it to lead but life is messy so even the most well thought out plans, once in action will throw tangents at you. 

You see I’ve been looking at goal setting as a straight road. I know there will be potholes and roadblocks and diversions but I’ve never really thought about the people I’ll meet on the road or the ideas I’ll get struck with or the views I’ll see as I pass certain milestones. 

Emergent Ideas are this notion of something that will appear out of taking action. 

Here’s an example.

I started working out in a gym a while back and went in with this idea of it being a way to stay healthy, lose a bit of weight and build a bit of muscle. It’s what most people envision when they think of starting the gym. 

I wanted to start, make it a habit and move on with my life with the addition of working out. The things I didn’t know when I started were how good I’d feel, how interested I’d be in learning about my body and it’s capabilities, what exercises I’d enjoy doing, what goals I’d set from this new standpoint.

Basically, I set an intention to go to the gym and it opened up a whole new world of ideas and action items that weren’t on my original list of “things to do this year”. 

So what do you do? Do you shut down these tangents because they weren’t planned for? Maybe sit down and try to fit them into the already huge list of goals for the year? Do you go with the flow and see where it goes? 


Using a Compass Instead


Using a compass is a different way of looking at things, a new form of structure that I’m starting to like more and more. 

Instead of setting rigid goals and set dates for completion I’ll play around in a certain field and see how it feels, if it’s a good fit if it’s something I want to continue with.

Instead of “by March 3rd I’ll have decided on a business to start and have a domain name bought and a logo brief” It’ll be “Let’s play with ideas. What do I like? Can I think of 10 ways I could make money doing this? Does this sit well with me?”

Using a compass is more a way to feel your way forward. Instead of deciding to go from point a-h this year, I’m going to go from point a to point b and play around for a while and see where I feel like going next. 



I’m new to this compass idea. I’m intrigued to see how I’ll cope with not having a rigid plan to stress me out. But now I’m off to figure out what areas I want to play in in 2017. Wish me Luck.

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