When you were doing the obituary exercise the other day (or, if you didn’t feel the need to do it, think about the last time you did some deep thinking or decision-making), did you have any sense of where your thoughts and dreams were coming from? Your head? Your heart? Maybe even outside of yourself?
Just to reassure you, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. It doesn’t matter where your ideas came from, but it’s sometimes interesting to note whether you have any sense of their origin. I like to think of there being four different origins, correlating to the four points of the compass….
North – your higher self, spirituality, dreams, flow state, interconnection with other living beings
South – groundedness, memories, past experiences, existing talents
East – left brain, logic, organization and rationality, financial concerns
West – right brain, creativity, intuition, imagination
… And that the strongest decisions arise when all four of these points are in balance.
As an example, I’m going to use what I call my “lightbulb moment”, when it became clear to me that I was going to row across oceans to raise environmental awareness. Most of my life I had made decisions in the East, logically, rationally, often involving an Excel spreadsheet to compare the pros and cons of different options.
The lightbulb moment was a completely different creature. It popped into my head fully formed, a vision of this future me venturing forth in a rowboat, giving presentations, writing books, spreading the good green word. It came straight out of the North, as if a clear blue sky had just zapped me with a thunderbolt.
In fact, it seemed so outrageous that I tried to talk myself out of it, arguing this vision out of existence by summoning up my self-limiting beliefs and fear of being different. The South came into play, both negatively and positively. On the negative side, it reminded me that I had virtually no relevant experience, that I’m not a naturally adventurous person, that People Like Me just don’t do Things Like That. But it also reminded me that I had rowed to a high standard before, at university, and that my 11 years as a management consultant had equipped me with strong project management skills – and this was nothing more than a particularly big project.
Then the well-organized East piped up, when I started to think, “What if I were going to do this, what would I need to read / buy / learn? Who would I need to talk to?” And I started to write the mother of all To Do lists, to take me all the way from where I was to becoming someone who would have the equipment, skills, knowledge and fitness to row an ocean or three.
The West had its part to play too. My imagination led me into that vision of my future, fleshing out the image with details of how it would feel when I finished my first ocean, gave media interviews, spoke at environmental conferences, inspired people to take responsibility for the future of our Earth. Soon it acquired the force of more than a dream, it started to feel like a destiny.
All four points of my compass were engaged, and in agreement. I set my course, and embarked on an incredibly exciting new chapter of my life.
Tell me: does this model resonate with you? Have you made decisions when everything seemed to align? How did those decisions pan out? Have you made decisions from one point of the compass only? How did they go?
I’m genuinely curious!