As a society, we are trained from our earliest years to approach our lives like mountain climbers. From the time we enter school we are supposedly being taught what to pack for life’s journey. By our teens, we have often laid out a detailed map and a kit of tools to our life and we are keenly aware of where our life journey is meant to go and where the summit is. Soon after starting that journey, however, we discover that life has its own paths, surprises and unexpected summits and challenges waiting for us.
The author of Shifting Sands, Steve Donahue, builds on an experience from his youth, where he and a friend seized the moment and unexpectedly drove across the Sahara Desert. Steve uses this as a life metaphor for the long journey of crossing an ever-changing desert when we “expect” to be climbing a well-planned mountain. In this book, the author shares that one evening the group had carefully planned their next step in the journey – it was completely laid out, right down to where the hills and sands and markings were. When they awoke the next morning, there had been a sandstorm and everything was different.
This becomes one of the author’s core revelations: Use a compass instead of a map. Rather than following someone else’s instructions and roadmap to the summit, Donahue encourages his readers to use our own inner compass and intuitive guideposts to plot our path day by day. Life is ever changing, and no amount of maps and markers can really plot our course – and if we think about it, would we even really want that?
One of Donahue’s most poignant chapters is, “When You’re Stuck, Deflate.” When we get stuck in life, we often tend to dig in our heels (or wheels) and just try harder – the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed,” ringing in our ears. But in life, like in the desert, sometimes that only bogs us deeper down into the sand. Being hell-bent to follow the map and do something the way we plan, can literally stop us in our tracks. According to Shifting Sands, sometimes we must simply stop, let go, and shift with the changing scene around us. The question thus becomes: How do I let go of my ideas and my ego and move forward?
As an executive mentor, my role is to uncover why we allow ourselves to get stuck and what we do to shift and rethink our direction and our summits. We know through positive psychology that as human beings we are sometimes stopped by our own experiences and comfort level over and over. Our ego will use this as a benchmark to allow us to feel “accomplished.” We are thus compelled to repeat only what we know. By using an inner compass, you can use your own “True North” to overtake that mental goalpost and begin to create a different journey and conquer summits higher than we might have ever dreamed to set.
As human beings, we like to assume we “know” how things will turn out and what steps we need to take to get there. We are gratefully reminded in Shifting Sands: A Guidebook for Crossing the Deserts of Change, that each life is an uncharted adventure to be joyously relished. To your success!
Dr. Success, Andrea Goeglein, Ph.D.