Sometimes There’s No Map—and That’s OK

A few weeks ago, I received a super-interesting email via the “Ask a Question” button on my website.

For the purposes of the author’s privacy, I am not going to include the text here, but the gist of her note was that she was about to meet her birth sister for the first time and was nervous.

Although they had both ended up in the same field (accounting) she felt that her sister’s life was vastly different from her own—both socially and economically.

In addition to being nervous about saying or doing something that would land poorly, she was also nervous about awkward silences.

As you might imagine, I had a whole bunch of things to say. Point number one, however, was:

  1. Tell yourself that there is no roadmap for this situation. It’s normal for there to be moments of quiet. I’m guessing you both will be processing what’s happening. This will help you to feel calmer about the quiet.

Easy to say, yes? Far harder to do—particularly for me (As a dear friend once said to me, “You could talk a dog off a meat truck.”)

What guided my advice was a podcast I heard on The Hidden Brain about a year ago.
on “wayfinding,” as opposed to goal setting.

What is wayfinding? In this context, it’s a computer design term that was co-opted for use in helping people feeling stuck or paralyzed in their lives. It recognizes that sometimes (more often than not, if we’re being frank) lots of us don’t know exactly where we’re headed—and it’s exhausting to feel like we should know.

In these moments, then, the idea of wayfinding helps you to shift your focus from needing to know all the next right steps right now, to accepting that all you really need to know is the next, right step in the general direction.

And to have a bit of trust in the quiet spaces in between.

For a bit more inspiration on how to accept the struggle, you might enjoy “It’s Easier to Daydream When You’re Going Uphill.”

If you’re wondering about the photo, that’s my sister, Elizabeth, and me.