On Changing Course

Imagine you’re hiking in the mountains with the help of a compass.

You’re heading North, because you mapped out a rough route ahead of time, and your next checkpoint is in that direction. You’re hiking around boulders and across snow for hours. You stop to check your compass and your map, and you realize you’ve strayed off course. To make matters worse, you’ve only got two hours of sunlight left, and you’re definitely not making it to the checkpoint by then. You’ve got to find a place to camp. You look at your map and decide to hike a half mile East, to lower elevation, to rest for the night. From there, you’ll likely take a different route to your destination.

Seems reasonable, right? The hike didn’t go quite as planned, so you had to change course.

Imagine now that the checkpoint is a goal you set for yourself in your daily life. You told yourself you were going to do this thing by this time. You planned it all out and started telling people about it. But after a while, you notice that something doesn’t quite feel right; you’re not as connected to the goal anymore. You wonder if that thing is even what you want anymore.

What does your brain do? If you’re like me, it resists changing course. It thinks, “Nope. This is what I planned to do, so I’m doing it.” How ridiculous does that sound in the hiking scenario? “Nope. I planned to hike to that checkpoint today, so I’m doing it.” Ummm, no. I could die.

Another common brain behavior is giving up; “Well shit. Things aren’t going the way I’d planned, so I guess I’ll just stop.” Also does not work out so well in the hiking scenario.

The thing is, our body always knows what to do. Call it our instinct, our intuition, our heart… Deep down, we know what’s right for us in the moment. That’s why, in the wilderness, when survival is in the forefront of our awareness, we don't let our pre-frontal cortex talk our instincts out of doing their thing.

When we’re going through life, it’s important to keep a sense of flexibility. We can make plans, but we can also change them. Because if you’re growing, you’re always taking in new information and learning more about yourself. As you learn more about yourself, you may find that the goals you once set don’t quite fit. And that's okay!

Listen to your heart. Get clear about what you want and how you want to feel. And change your course if you need to.