The beginning of a New Year always feels like the start of another journey to me. As a goal-oriented person, I usually have a pretty good idea of where that 12 month journey will take me. Although I know my planned destination and preferred routes are not guaranteed, they’re a lot more likely to materialize if I put some thought into them.
While setting expectations for 2015 and wondering about detours I might encounter on the way to this year’s objectives, it struck me that people setting goals and planning life and career journeys could learn a lot from GPS technology.
GPS has revolutionized the way we travel. Whether we’re navigating downtown streets with a smart phone or following canned instructions from a dash-mounted Garmin as we trek off the beaten path, most of us now rely on some form of GPS generated mapping application to get from point A to point B.
Our ancestors followed stars—today we follow satellites.
If you’re mapping your year and planning the journey you’ll take over the next 12 months, consider these five lessons that flow from our new-found relationship with GPS:
1. Know where you are: GPS technology only works if it knows where you’re currently located. Before you can map a journey or plan how to achieve an objective, you need to know where you are right now. Whether you call that your current coordinates, an environmental scan, or a situation assessment; it’s best to know where you stand before planning where you want to go and what you want to accomplish.
2. Know where you’re going: As much as your chosen GPS tool needs to know where you are, it also needs to know where you’re going in order to map possible routes. Lewis Carroll illustrated this so succinctly with his well-known exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in the story Alice in Wonderland.
Alice came to a fork in the road. “Which road do I take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire Cat.
“I don't know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the Cat, “it doesn't matter.”
3. Plot multiple routes: There’s more than one way to get from where you are to where you’re going. As you plan your 2015 journey, explore the possibilities rather than jumping to the most obvious plan or solution. Even once you decide on a preferred direction or approach, take the time to select an alternate route in case of unexpected delays–it always pays to have a plan B.
4. Embrace detours: The most direct route to your destination is often the most heavily travelled. Getting bogged down in the traffic of too many people seeking the same objective can be demotivating. Instead of getting frustrated, you might want to take the next exit from the well-worn route. Spontaneous detours offer many advantages. Like the proverbial tortoise, you might gain an unexpected win–slow progress still beats no progress. Better yet, by being an explorer, you might discover something wonderful and unique that no one else has found, just by taking the road less travelled.
5. Update your maps: It can really throw you off your stride (maybe even send you into the abyss!) when you zoom around a corner only to discover the bridge is out. Knowing the terrain you’ll travel through, the obstacles you’ll encounter, and the newly-forged shortcuts that will ease your passage can make or break your journey. Never set out toward an important destination with outdated maps: just like every great adventurer, you need to know where dragons lurk.
Every new technology has useful lessons to offer if we dig a little—like these five things we can learn from GPS. Of course, while lessons like these can enhance our decisions and help us create a better plan, it’s still up to us to do the work and make it work. Just as ancient navigators relied on the stars to show them the way, yet still mastered the skills they needed to chart the course and sail the ship.