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The compass as a metaphor for life - Jewel Tan - Blog

The compass as a metaphor for life

The magnetic compass was first invented as a device for seeking supernatural knowledge of the future or unknown around 200 BC in China. This early use as a tool for geomancy – is also aligned with the Chinese traditional practice of fēngshuǐ which uses energy forces to harmonize the person and their surroundings.

It was only later that it became known as as an instrument for navigation and orientation. In the Song Dynasty China it became a tool of the military for navigational orienteering around that time and was also used for maritime navigation.

Before its introduction mariners relied on sighting of landmarks and the relative position of the moon and stars for navigation.

There were other more interesting methods too, like sampling the seabed (this is how Mark twain’s name was supposedly derived from a commonplace Mississippi river depth sampling call-out to ensure the steamboat didn’t run aground), observations of migratory birds, weather patterns, the observation of sea detritus and floating debris.

All of these were pretty imprecise methods and particularly when there was fog or low cloud cover that prevented one from having much visibility. The compass changed all that by making it possible to determine a heading even in low or no light and even in thick fog.

As such it became an instrument with fairly precise capabilities as long as you understood how to read it and knew which direction you were meant to be traveling in.

Once you understand what each attribute of a compass is meant to to do for you, working with one becomes pretty easy. The US outdoor recreation co-op REI has a great guide to using a compass that is worth a read if you are interested.

Knowing where you are where you want to be

A compass is most useful when used together with a chart or map but that assumes a couple of things. Firstly that you know where you are, and secondly, that you know where you want to go.

This knowledge is relevant to our own lives and intentions. Whether it be a question of lifestyle, personal goals, relationships or even ambitions. It requires one to take stock of where one is at in order to determine the direction in which one plans to continue or set off. At the same time it is a great opportunity to identify areas for improvement like lifestyle choices, how you deal with family and friends and personal goal setting.

As Scott Smith on the Daily Boost might say; “Have you done your homework?”

Do your homework by asking these basic questions;

  • Am I happy?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What do I love to do?
  • Is there something I can do right now, something appropriate and small that would give me a happiness boost?
  • What are the things that are holding me back?
  • What can I do about those things holding me back?

Ideally you should have solid answers for all of these questions, if not, then you need to engage in some introspection.

Planning your journey

As you will know with perhaps commuting (when many of use weren’t working from home); there are potentially many ways to get home. We could perhaps walk, cycle, drive, take public transport etc. Each of those approaches to going home takes a potentially different route with different waypoints. If you establish the way points, the compass is what you use to determine the direction you should travel to get to the next waypoint relative to where you are.

You can also lock onto landmarks and the metaphor here is probably akin to the personal goals that you might have in mind around career progression, education, health etc. Some of your waypoints or landmarks may be big, hairy and ambitious goals (BHAG) or they may be more modest in nature.

Putting a strong focus on goal setting will ultimately reward you with the satisfaction of having achieved something as you arrive at each waypoint.

Publish Date: July 26, 2021 12:51 AM

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