How Often Do You Check Your Map?



Did you know that when Chinchillas are running, they stop to memorize their surroundings to make up for their impaired vision? Watching a Chinchilla run is actually pretty cool – because they run, stop. Run, stop, Run, stop. And come to think of it, it makes sense. Just think about how dangerous it would be to run without seeing where you’re going.

In other words, Chinchillas stop to grab a map before they make a run for it.

And so do we.

I’m writing this from Portland, Oregon. I’m in town for the World Domination Summit and the first thing I did when I arrived at PDX was to get myself a free map of the city. I knew where I was going, so I picked up a map to help me get there quickly and safely.

On my way from the airport, I checked my map often. I kept track of the train stations and street names. I stopped to check if I was on the right path.

Easy, right?

But let’s consider  for a second that for a confused (and jet lagged) moment, I picked up the wrong map. Let’s say this map also had PORTLAND written all over the front. Since I have never been to Portland before, it would probably take quite some time and frustration before I noticed that my map didn’t match my world.

And what if I got the wrong address to the hotel? Let’s say the hotel sent me the wrong address in their confirmation e-mail and I just assumed it was the right one. I probably wouldn’t have noticed before I was there. In the wrong place. With a faulty map.

Following the map is easy. If you have a map. If you know where you’re going.

And when we’re traveling, of course we all make sure we pick up the right map. We make sure we get the right address. And we stop to check the map. When we travel, especially on our own, we are present. We are focused. A maybe a bit nervous. Of course we check and plan and pick up a free map.

But when it comes to following our dreams – we don’t.

Yes, when we set out to follow our dreams, we do usually stop to check the map.

Do I have the right qualifications, do I wear the right clothes, do I know the right people? And so it goes. Does this company offer the right salary, do I get promoted often enough, am I working hard enough? Every time you stop and wonder about these things, you are checking your map to see if you’re on track.

But do you ever stop and wonder if you’ve got the right map?

Do you ever stop and wonder if you’ve got the right address? The right destination?

I’m guessing not so often.

Because we take this for granted, right?

We take it for granted that the maps provided to us match our destinations. And we take it for granted that the destination we have chosen is where we want to go. And it makes perfect sense, because the world would be a very frightening place to live in if you constantly had to double check.

And yet I’m asking you to double check.

Because I suspect that you, like me, sometimes wander off the path and get lost. And even worse, you follow the path and feel even more lost. And that’s not a good place to be in.

Trust me.

When I was in London in May, Martha Beck asked the audience: “what are you afraid to know?

And I immediately thought about my law degree.

I’m afraid to know it is not right for me. Because I think that if I admit it to myself, then I would have to act on it. I would have to change the road I’m on. And that is really scary.

But no matter how much I pretend that I’m following the right map to the right destination – I’m not.

And knowing that won’t change anything.

Taking action to change will change everything. And I’m not ready, so I won’t. I’m not quitting. Not yet, anyways.

And you don’t have to either.

But stopping to check the map, to check the map and to check the map – to stop and check you’re using the right map, to stop and check if you have the right destination – it could change your life.

And it can only change it for the better.

Maybe you will have to backtrack a little, and maybe a lot. But no matter when you decide to stop and check your bearings – it’s not to late.

It’s about time.



{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jana July 6, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Marthe, I LOVE this piece! It is so perfect for me right now, I will save it in my all-time favourites! You are so gifted, I love having you in my life and inbox! Thank you so much! <3


Marthe July 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Thank you so much, Jana! I love how this post resonates so clearly with you, especially since I started thinking about this topic already last week. It was meant for you, babe!

And thank you for your support, always. <3


Melissa July 7, 2012 at 3:01 am

Such a lovely post :) It resonated with me as only a few weeks back I stopped to ‘check my maps’ and found that subconsciously I had been hating my journalism degree and that furthermore, I hated the profession, so have changed to psychology and I just feel free now, as though a light went on inside my mind. It is funny how once you are on the right path everything just falls into place :) x Melissa


Marthe July 7, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Thank you Melissa! Congratulations on the newfound freedom. I’m so happy to hear things are falling into place and I’d love to hear more about what is next for you :)


Catherine July 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

Very good one ! All wise and full of smart ideas ! I love maps (I mean, geographical ones …), so I’m gonna love checking mine life one !


Katherine July 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm

As usual, you’re saying all the right things! But it always feels like you’re saying them right when I need to hear them!

I’ve been following what I thought was my ‘dream job’ for years now and the closer I get to the end goal, the more I realise that I don’t want to be there. It’s like I’ve got the map, but I don’t like what it’s telling me!

Thank you, you are wonderful!


David Delp August 25, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I love this metaphor. I check my map every year, every week, and every day. The small iterations are so much less overwhelming and productive than a once-a-year anual assessment, followed by drinking and forgetting.

I need to find out more about Chinchillas!



Hopskipandjump September 30, 2012 at 10:06 am

love your blog Marthe!


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