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Stop benchmarking your life and start wayfinding it instead

I know where I am. I know where I want to be. This is the motto of the wayfinder.

Life is hard.

Even harder is gauging how well your life is progressing, especially during a time of transition. The transition from college to real world is hard. So too is the transition from job to job, church to church, or relationship to relationship.

I experienced this first hand after graduating college. Accustomed to having grades to tell me how well I was doing, I struggled with my transition to the real world. Without grades acting as benchmarks I struggled to figure out how I stacked up against the rest of the world.

I felt blind. Lost.

It’s human nature to create benchmarks in our environment to orient ourselves. But when our environment drastically changes, such as a job loss or break up, we immediately fall into a dense fog of confusion.

Without benchmarks, we lose our sense of navigation. And while the degree of severity may vary, we all tend to gravitate to the easiest solution:

We start comparing ourselves to others.

No matter how lost you may feel, using other people to benchmark yourself is a recipe for disaster. I’ve already learned my lesson.

Don’t benchmark yourself to someone you think is successful

After graduating, I knew within the first year of working in corporate America that it wasn’t right for me. To escape this career path I knew I’d have to work hard to build something on the side.

I turned to the internet to find out what to do. In her infinite wisdom, the internet provided me with the perfect escape: build a blog, grow an audience, sell stuff to said audience.

I read success story after success story of people who left their full-time jobs after a few months of blogging. There was one person who really resonated with me.

I’ll admit it, he was my first success-crush (someone who you deem successful enough to listen to anything they have to say). Every blog post felt like he was talking directly to me. I wanted to do what he did.

But here’s where I messed up: I started to use his success as my benchmark.

It’s been six months, why do I barely have 100 readers. I’d say to myself. Or, He’s making six-figures a year from blogging, why can’t I even make three?

Never mind he had 7+ years more experience than me. Never mind he had more connections and opportunities than me. Never mind he was simply just another human than me. I wanted a benchmark and he was the first one I grasped.

I tried navigating my life using his path. Naturally, I felt like a failure.

Here's where wayfinding enters the story (in case you decided to skim to the end)

Tired of feeling like a failure, even after I created a cooking blog, published a book, or launched a podcast, I needed a change. I didn’t want to benchmark my life anymore. I wanted instead to focus solely on myself and my actions. That’s when I discovered wayfinding.

Wayfinding is the act of navigating your environment through constant monitoring of your actions. In other words, it's putting processes and actions in place to move you in one direction, and then redirecting yourself once you start to feel yourself veering off course.

The process of wayfinding encompasses four stages:

  • Orientation — being self-aware to understand who you really are
  • Route decision — picking one (or a few) processes to follow and ignoring all others
  • Route monitoring — again, being self-aware enough to understand if you are moving toward your desired destination
  • Destination recognition — Seeing your destination ahead of you and knowing the processes to follow to get there

As you can tell, wayfinding isn’t about hitting certain benchmarks, it’s entirely focused on your process.

When you have a clear idea of your destination as well as a good understanding of your orientation, there’s no need for benchmarks. It no longer matters how far you’ve gone or how far you have left to go. You focus entirely on the process.

If at any time you find yourself wavering from the desired route, you make adjustments to wayfind your way back. You course correct by making tweaks to your process. You find what works and stick to it, you uncover what doesn't work and prevent it.

Wayfinding is the balance between having goals and putting in the work to go after them.

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Do I still struggle with benchmarking myself to other people?

Of course. I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with a strong community of ambitious goal-driven individuals who push me to go after my dreams. But there are still times I find myself feeling envious of their success.

However, the longer you practice wayfinding the easier it is to brush off your envy and get back to working toward your destination. Especially when the destination is in sight.

I’m just under 5 months away from leaving my full-time job and becoming self-employed, just as I had envisioned so many years ago. I didn’t get here by following someone else’s path, I created my own.

And that’s all I care about now, what’s the next step I want to take?

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Hello, my name is Declan. I’m a husband, father, writer, and founder of SHRPA. My mission is to get 1,000 people serious about going after their goals and dreams.

To achieve my mission, I created an exclusive membership site available only for a select few. Are you one of them?

Stay-at-home dad. 9-to-5 escapee. Aldi aficionado. Me in a nutshell→

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