I surprised myself time and time again with the things that I learned during my ten years in the Army. Land navigation is one of those things that seemed intimidating at first, but once I learned the basics I actually enjoyed conquering the challenge. This season of my life finds me reflecting on my land navigation days and I found a few parallels that I thought I would share.
1. Map Reading- One of the fundamentals to land navigation is map reading. One must understand the meaning of the map symbols and the features of the terrain. The symbols are defined by the colors on the map: black-man made, blue-water, brown-contour lines, green-vegetation, reddish-brown-roads and or relief feature. The main features of terrain are hill, valley, ridge, saddle, and depression. Now if you don't understand how to read a map or what the symbols mean, the map does you no good since the goal typically consists of plotting points on a map and going from point to point until you make it out to the other side.
I find this very much like life. You must stop to assess where you are in life from time to time, so you can get to where you are trying to go. Perhaps its understanding the culture of your company, the status of your relationships, or your progress toward your financial goals. Whatever that thing is, there is some standard guiding what success looks like. If you don't make yourself aware of the terrain you are navigating you will keep walking around the same valley. How will your relationships improve if you don't establish agreed upon boundaries/symbols? Will you ever advance in your workplace if you don't understand the culture/terrain? Will you reach your financial goals without plotting a course and following through?
2. Using a Compass- Speaking of following a course, there are times when you can get disoriented on the land navigation course. A heavy rain may have come through and created a new firebreak/road that is not indicated on the map. Maybe there were brush fires that wiped out vast portions of vegetation and rendered your plotted course useless. In these kinds of scenarios you must be able to course correct. Using your compass will help you plot a new course given the present situation on the ground.
Isn't that just like life? You can have your course all mapped out and then life happens: you get laid off, major illness wipes out your savings, or relationships change and you don't even know what happened. What do you do? Confession time: I am an avid planner. I used to have friends in college that would tease me because I knew what day of the week was for any date during the calendar year because I would study the calendar. I knew where I wanted to be financially, what classes I needed to take and who the professor was going to be, and when I needed to mail out my Christmas cards to ensure they made it on time (MY set day on the calendar.) On one hand these are great qualities but on the other hand I was bound to my schedule that I was unable to flex if things were not happening in accordance with my timeline. This is no way to live life because things happen that are out of our control. When things happen, we must have the resilience to face it and course correct. Some of my strategies are are (1) finding the things that are working and build around them; (2) finding the things to be grateful for and letting go of what has been lost; (3) looking for opportunities in the midst of my challenges. Course correction is a powerful concept because even the best laid plans are not guaranteed. And no one should life a life imprisoned by their past thinking "what might have happened if..."
3. Pace Count- Finally a key to land navigation from my rusty Army memory is knowing your pace count. Your pace count is how many steps it takes you to walk 100 meters. There are important things to note as you use your pace count on the land navigation course. There are conditions that will lengthen or shorten your pace count: going uphill, windy conditions, sand or gravel, and poor visibility. The main take-away here is that everyone needs to know their own pace count and how it is impacted by the conditions. Again, this is just like life. I can't gauge my journey by someone else's success or failure. I always scoff when comparisons are made between athletes or artists in completely different eras under completely different circumstances. In my opinion it is unfair and defeating to constantly compare people to one another. I am not competing with anyone but myself. I need to go at my pace. I need to know what I am going to do under pressure and in the storms of life. Each person's life is unique with its own terrain, conditions and plotted points. Understanding your pace count will help you navigate the ground that you have to cover to get to the other side. I equate pace count with gifts, talents, and skills. Every person's unique set of gifts, talents, and skills being used on their individual journey produces individual results. Learn your pace count and set your course.