Our Inner compass – our guiding light through the unknown

I used to tell people that I had no problem stepping into the unknown – I do it all the time. My problem was remaining relatively intact when I did it. Have you got that problem?

What I’ve discovered since saying that is my real problem:  jumping in without a compass.  I was reminded of this in Seth Godin’s blog about maps.. He noted that without a map when we’re lost, we remain lost.  But there is no map in the unknown, and that’s when we need a compass.

The only compass we have is the one inside us. Chris Hatfield speaks of it in the Ted Talk below: his inner compass was so fine-tuned and practiced that he had no moments of panic when he went blind in space. He was prepared, and even if what happened never happened during simulation practices, he and his teammates knew they had covered more than enough, and had developed a felt sense inside them that would carry them through almost any situation they encountered.  He was also prepared to die – which is another story.

Here is something you can learn and practice for yourself, so that you have a honed inner compass whenever you need one (Courtesy of Martha Beck – Finding Your Way in a Wild New World – I think):

  • Calibrate your compass: Get comfortable and relaxed – take 3 or 4 deep, slow breaths.
    • The minus side: Then imagine some recent event you didn’t like.  Once you have it in mind, bring it into the present by remembering how you felt at that moment.  Then scan your body – from toes to the top of your head, and notice any strong visceral feelings you encounter – it may be a tightening in your chest, a gripping in your stomach, etc.. Give the sensation you discovered a negative number between -1 and -10.
    • The plus side: Then shake that off, and imagine a recent pleasant event. Again, scan your body, noticing any strong visceral sensations – like an expansiveness in your chest, a warmth in your belly. Give it a positive measure, between 1 and 10.
  • Using your compass: You now have a scale of negative and positive sensations that express, in physical terms, your response to negative and positive events. With practice, you’ll eventually be able to tell in an instant if you’re steering yourself off course in the fog of the unknown, and will be able to alter direction on a dime.
  • Practice: It’s the only way to know your own compass. And this doesn’t come easy to many of us. You might mistake an emotion for a feeling – like feeling scared but having tingling butterflies in your stomach, with feeling scared and having the hair at the back of your neck standing up.  The first is probably positive; the second isn’t.

With a well-calibrated inner compass, you have the only thing you need to survive, and thrive, in the vast unknown.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

What I learned from going blind in space

inner compass

Quote of the Week

I don’t need to see the trail to know you’re at the end of it. My grandfather’s compass may not work, but mine is still true.
― Diana Peterfreund, For Darkness Shows the Stars


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co


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