The compass, not long ago man's primary tool for navigation, has become largely an artefact of times past. Much like the traditional wrist watch or grandfather clock it is more form than function - perhaps it's the grandparent passing on to the grandchild as a memory, or something sat on a shelf to admire and consider the simplicity that once was.
These days we have smartphones and GPS devices which guide us. Very few people under 25 will likely recall learning to navigate with a paper map; why bother when you've got Google maps in your pocket?
But there is a beauty in the simplicity of the compass which we have lost. The compass won't tell us which way to go, it will simply help orient us relative to our surroundings. With the help of a map it can guide us off on an adventure or safely home. It is a tool, one piece of the puzzle, not something we can point and click and be told precisely how to arrive at our destination.
In essence, it doesn't serve up the solution to be swallowed without the need to use our intellectual capacity - effort is required.
And in that effort the beauty of intellect, intuition, and presence comes to play. Instead of following perfect directions the opportunity exists to veer off course, to explore; and it requires we slow down and pay attention to the detail that surrounds us - it allows us to learn as we go, to shift course when we feel we ought to or when opportunity arises. And with that shifting and occasional confusion some of the best kept secrets are often found.
In my life fear is a compass. It is an ever present guide. I carry it with me in my gut, and I know it's call via the pace of my heart and the sweat on my palms.
Fear is a primal response, a gift to us from our ancestors warning us of danger and largely the reason we humans, feeble by comparison to some of the fierce beasts that walk this earth, have survived and thrived for centuries.
Fear, combined with intellect, that is. The onus is on us to know how to use that fear.
Throughout most of mankind's history fear was a valuable tool telling us very clearly to stay away, to run, or to fight - but for most of us in the developed world our lives are not at risk on a daily basis - so what are we do do with this fear?
We should use fear just as we would a compass, a tool to guide us when we're not sure which way to go. It is a sign that there is something to be explored, that a great opportunity for growth exists. We must allow it to pulse through our veins, embrace it, sense its source and move towards it to see how the mind and body respond, and then use this information to our advantage.
I have had a continuous stream of events such as this in the past few months of my life, from giving up a high paying job, to venturing into the unknown world of the solo-preneur, to launching myself down a red run on a pair of skis, building a deck in my garden (a DIY project well beyond my previously perceived capabilities), or creating this blog and putting my writing out there.
In all cases fear appeared. My heart rate increased, anxiety stepped in, panic at times crept to the surface and with it stress and unhealthy thought patterns.
And then I found calm in the form of a yoga practice, meditation, breath work, or simply stepping back from the situation in a mindful way. From that perspective I could see fear for what it was - a warning presented as an attempt to avoid potential pain or physical harm - or on the flip side a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow, to move towards a more authentic and hopefully better version of myself while creating a life I get to live fully.
Should we choose lives of conformity following the paths of those who have gone before then the smartphone approach is all we need. However should we choose to step out into the great unknown space of creating our own unique paths in life, we're going to need a compass.