Why You Need A Compass More Than You Need a Map

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January ended, and now you can look back at your plans for 2019 and notice where you are on track and where the track is under 4 feet of snow.

Maps work as long as the roads are clear and you know where you are and where you want to go. Most of the time, it's a good idea to get your bearings before you try to use a map (much less make one). But people are naturally impatient, especially as a new year begins. We think we need a plan. What we need is a compass.

A compass can only do one thing: it can show you where true north is in relation to where you are now. With that one piece of information, you can move in any direction with confidence. You just need to know where you are in relation to one defining landmark.

What's your true north? I think it's something like wellness, or a life well-lived. If you don't know where you are in relation to that, it's hard to make good choices about how to get there or about the price of going somewhere else. You won't know which of your goals bring you closer to wellness if you've never stopped to think about wellness as something more than ads for the newest gym or supplement.

For me, wellness is the ability to live well, and that includes at least four dimensions: physical well-being; emotional well-being; mental well-being and ethical well-being. I use the word ethical because it is more general than spiritual or moral; whether or not you believe in a god, you probably believe that some choices are right and some are wrong. Ethics governs what you do, not just what you think, so it connects you directly to your impact on the world.

Wellness isn't about choosing one of these dimensions; it's about having all of them be strong at once. You experience well-being when you are of sound mind and body, when your emotions are a reliable guide to your experience, and when you are in the right relationship with the world around you.

Take another look at your map. If wellness is true north, where are you now? Where are your maps taking you? If your map isn't drawn with true north in mind, it's time to re-draw your map.

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