ABCs of Positivity: N Is for Navigation
Navigation is movement with a plan. You know where you want to go, and you have instructions for how to get there. According to Merriam-Webster, navigation originally had more to do with getting ships, aircraft, and spacecraft from place to place and included the method for determining their position and course, along with the distance they traveled. This makes sense when you consider the root of the word, navis, is Latin for ship.
Once upon a time, navigation was associated with map-reading. In the technology age, the art of map-reading is a lost – and largely unnecessary – skill. My son’s birthfather amazed me with his precision at reading a map. “OK, just ahead is a small hill, then the road will curve to the left.” Whatever he said was exactly what we experienced. These weren’t words he was reading – just the pictures he was easily able to interpret into words I could understand when I was driving.
While not the genius my son’s father is at map-reading, I’m no shlub and almost always manage to get where I intend to go in reasonable time and fashion. I was on a cross-country trip a number of years ago, staying at a small motel in Colorado. I must have had my map out in the motel lobby, because I remember the lady working the counter mentioning to me that she didn’t understand maps. She had never been taught to read one. That stunned me. How could a person reach her mid-40s without an understanding of how a map works? I explained to her that you’re following codes, usually numbers or letters – but that the colors of the lines matter, too. She nodded like she understood, but I’m guessing it might have taken a few lessons for the information to sink in.
Today, we have devices to navigate for us. That doesn’t keep some people from getting hopelessly lost. You still need to know right from left and north from south. And devices are only as good as the people who program them – so occasionally the device is wrong. Which is why map-reading may still be a skill to aspire to, in spite of technology.
Sometimes the GPS has incomplete data. Maybe an accident has just occurred so traffic on your normal route is backed up for miles. Or perhaps someone neglected to update the database to indicate a construction zone. In these cases, you may need to make adjustments to your route. Or think about the times you choose to ignore the GPS commands and take a different route. You hear that little beep-beep as the GPS recalibrates to catch up with your impromptu decision.
We also use the term navigation to describe moving around an app or a website.
One of the key components of navigation is knowing where you are, relative to where want to go. It’s pretty hard to give someone directions when either of those two variables is missing.
We can easily extrapolate from literal navigation, getting oneself from place to place, to the much broader sense of figuratively navigating through life. Consider your goals, for instance. Think of one thing you’d like to achieve in the next year. Now consider how you’ll move toward achieving that goal. Your plan to achieve the goal is your map – and the movement toward your goal is your navigation. The only way you will be able to set out toward that destination is by knowing what it is and where you’re starting from. And just like the GPS recalibrating, you may need to make alterations to the plan or pitstops along the way. The one thing that doesn’t change is the destination – or goal – you have in mind.
Some people are strict navigators, seemingly having every detail of their lives planned. Others are more like a twig in a stream, wandering wherever the water takes them. Neither is right or wrong – we are who we are. There are benefits to both ways of living – and most of us find ourselves somewhere between these extremes.
What can you do to become a better navigator of your life?
- Take an inventory of how much information you need to take action or make progress. The more tuned in you are to your intuition, the less written down planning you may need to do. It may help to realize that you can move forward with the information you have, as incomplete as it may be. And understand that every decision doesn’t need to make perfect sense.
- Make decisions based on actual facts and information, not on what-ifs or any sort of disaster thinking. It’s always good to have a Plan B, but you can’t get to Plan B without a Plan A.
- Make choices and plans based on where you are right now – fall back on mindfulness. I’m reminded of the suggestion that people on a weight-reduction regimen should keep only the clothes they can fit into at the moment. Having those skinny jeans around for “some day” can actually work against our goal by continually reminding us that we’re not there yet.
- Trust yourself to make good decisions. Perhaps you have a history of questionable decisions, so this isn’t innate for you. Time to tune into your intuition. Perhaps try a mindfulness meditation. Create some affirmations to help your brain and heart understand that you are a good, reliable decision-maker. Take it in small steps.
- It’s OK to ask others for their input – but understand you are driving the ship. Some people who’ve been where you are will have great advice that might help you steer around an unseen iceberg. Others may feel threatened that you are trying to make a change in your life and do whatever they can to keep you in status quo. Remember, this is your goal. You’re the captain of your ship, so you’re the only one who can determine which mental passengers you allow onboard.
- Chunk big goals down into small, manageable tasks. If you’re working on a one-year goal, make a timeline for your goal by breaking it down into 12 segments, one for each month. Then break those medium-size goals into smaller weekly goals. Then do the same for daily goals.
- Be sure you’re taking action daily. Sometimes we can get off course (a form of procrastination), yet convince ourselves this other action has something to do with our goal. When you notice that happen, celebrate the fact that you caught yourself getting distracted. Give yourself time to indulge a bit. And then bring your focus back to your bigger goal.
- Reassess regularly. Take time to review your goal and consider your navigation plan. Are you moving ahead? Are you coming across a number of unexpected roadblocks? How do you need to revise your plan so that you can still navigate toward your goal on your original timeline?
Are you on the other extreme, wishing to figure out how to let a little of the starch out of your shirt so you can live a slightly less structured life? Here are some questions you can ask yourself around loosening up your structure a bit.
- Where can I fit more flexibility into my day?
- Do I have to set the alarm clock? If so, do I have to get up as early as I always do, or is there some give in my morning schedule?
- Can I change my lunch routine? Eat something different? Eat in a different place? Eat at a different time? Eat with different people?
- Is what I’m doing resonating with me? Am I doing it out of habit? If it’s habit, is the habit serving me? Is it something I’m doing on autopilot?
- How much am I enjoying my present moment? What would I be doing instead if I could do something I truly enjoy?
- Is there a way I can change up my exercise routine? Exercise at a different time? Exercise in a different way? Exercise in a different place?
- Can I put more variety into my wardrobe? Would that make me happy? What would I wear if I could dress according to my mood, rather than how I feel I should look?
- How many of my decisions are based on what I think people expect of me? What would change if I made decisions based on what I want, without caring what people think or expect of me?
Whether it’s reading a literal map, knowing your way around a keyboard, or moving easily through life, navigation is an essential life skill. The more we can master it, the more positive our experiences will be.