A few weeks ago I started learning a new route. I found my way to and from a place I had never been. Instead of driving out of my gate, turning left and then taking another left, I began to go straight down after the first left turn. I began to drive past new buildings, see new sights and sites, and have new encounters. Before it was pure highway, but now there’s a market, a filling station, a construction site and even a street with my friend’s mum’s name on it. While driving I had new thoughts, was inspired by new ideas and had a chance to see things differently – eventually. Stepping out of my routine allowed me to look outside of myself and see where I was, where I was headed and what I wanted to do; literally and figuratively.
I did all of this without Google Maps. Those who know me will be astonished. Everyone knows I am ‘bad with directions.’ The only reason they know I am bad with directions is because I repeatedly told them so. Once upon a time I decided I could not navigate without a navigation device. My first boo was called Delilah, and my oldest friend and I used her to crisscross Midwestern America, head down South and even to go as far as to the East Coast. Ironically I did little to none of the driving. Before Delilah was around telling us to “head south in 20 kilometers” we had to use physical maps, which I read with ease and directed Zaza on how to arrive at our many destinations. Yet somehow when I got behind the wheel I declared I was “not good with directions” and began to broadcast the message far and wide.
When someone would describe how to get to a location I would simply nod but tune out. Secretly I knew as soon as they left I would pull out my phone, punch the location into Google Maps and follow those directions instead. Even when it felt like I was being taken on a longer route I simply ignored my intuition and continued to believe in everything Google suggested. For example, three months into a job I still used Google Maps to get to the office, even though I knew exactly what exit to take and what side street to turn into by then. However a part of me felt like I needed that safety net, just in case I got it wrong. I was simply more comfortable doing things how I had always done – with the virtual map that continued to update itself and tell me what to do – rather than being full aware of my surroundings and trusting my new knowledge.
This new route I recently learned did not happen by chance. I did not decide to drive off the road I usually take for no apparent reason. I had somewhere to go – somewhere important, and decided the destination was worth taking the road less travelled. The first few times I took the journey I had a copilot who directed me on where to turn and what landmarks to look out for. When I was uncertain I was given reassurance that I was on the right track and the destination was indeed up ahead. The first ride was fun and easy, ‘turn here, go there.’ I did so with delight and without thinking twice. After all, I love to drive and the destination was a good one. However after the first two trips my copilot went silent. I asked for clarification as to whether I was on the right path or not and was met with an expression of disbelief. “You’ve driven along this road before. Don’t you remember?”
I realized that my self-definition was affecting my outcomes. Because I had once upon a time decided I was ‘bad with directions’ I stopped doing anything to improve my sense of direction. This included listening, truly being aware of my surroundings and keeping my landmarks in mind. In the past, I either mindlessly listened to Google Maps or to the person in my passenger seat directing me on where to go. Now, after being directed I was expected to know the route – after all what if there was no signal, my battery died or Google Maps was inaccessible for some other reason. Would I then be helpless because I had decided a decade ago that I was ‘bad with directions?’ This was the point my copilot made while allowing me to repeatedly signal towards the wrong roads and take a few wrong turns and circle back. With grudging assistance and reminders that put just enough pressure to compel me to learn the route all by myself, I am happy to report I can skillfully navigate two entirely new roads and areas that both lead to an amazing destination.
Does any other this sound familiar? It should. After all we are all guilty of this. Maybe I am the only one who WAS bad with directions, but we all place limits on what we can do and prefer to be spoon-fed, guided blindly or carried in certain aspects of our life. Common declarations include – ‘I am bad with directions, I hate writing, I don’t know how to save money, I cannot speak in public, I have a short temper, I procrastinate a lot, I cannot stand x, y, z.’
We are born limitless, there is really nothing we cannot do or be if we would only put our minds to it. However when it does not come naturally, when it takes a bit more effort or when we are not as comfortable performing a task we often outsource our skillsets. I gave up my navigation skills and superimposed Google Maps’ ability. Over the last few weeks I have been astonished to realize that I’m not bad with directions. The feelings I get when driving on my new beat include a sense of empowerment, accomplishment and pride in my achievement. It might seem inconsequential, but I’ve harnessed those feelings and redirected them towards writing the book I thought I was not ready to and kick starting the business I had my doubts about. How did this happen? Well, in learning this new route and throwing away the ‘I’m bad with directions’ identity, I have let go of my reluctance to trust my own intuition and have come to the realization that I can do more than I have given myself credit for.
As we usher in the second quarter of this year here’s my advice from one expert navigator to another: Trust what you have learned. Test your growth. Do not limit yourself with labels. Exercise new muscles. Learn new skills. Be a bit bolder and slightly more courageous. Do not be so comfortable that you refuse to go further or travel to new destinations. Do not be too afraid to get lost, you can still find yourself again. You might not have traveled there before, but the destination might be the best place you have ever been. Do not be scared to drive on new roads, even if you are uncertain about some of the directions. Even if you always turned left in the past – maybe turning right will lead you down the path you’ve been praying for. Take a risk and trust yourself in Q2, you can do whatever you say you can do!