Up until the other day I believed I had no sense of direction. Getting anywhere new was a bit of a nightmare. If my sat nav lost its signal all hope was lost – and so was I!
But whilst it was inconvenient, it was manageable. It was just something I worked around – leaving more time for journeys to factor-in getting lost, getting other people to navigate, telling people of my difficulty so they’d understand if I was late.
And I understood where my lack of a sense of direction came from too. From my mother. She’s never had a sense of direction and it is well known within our family that the female line is sadly lacking in its ability to get from A to B without ending up going via C, D and sometimes even E.
So this lack of sense of direction was, for me, an absolute truth. It wasn’t something I gave much thought to. It was just how it was. Something of a nuisance but not a big issue. And over the years I’d amused lots of people with tales of my inability to go anywhere without getting lost.
Then a couple of months ago I was recounting one of my nightmare journey stories to a friend of mine. I’d just been to Reading to collect a friend of my son’s from the train station. I’d arrived safely and on time having followed the instructions from my sat nav but on the return journey it had been a completely different story. The sat nav had failed, I’d got completely lost and what had taken me about 40 minutes on the outward journey had taken me about 2 and a quarter hours on the return. I concluded my story bemoaning the fact I’d no sense of direction and hoping my son would inherit his father’s abilities in this area rather than mine.
My friend just laughed, but not so much at my story but at what was behind what I’d told him. He suggested my lack of a sense of direction wasn’t the absolute fact I believed it to be. He put forward the idea it wasn’t inherited, wasn’t a given, wasn’t genetic – it was a belief, something I’d created based entirely on what I’d heard from my mother – and that it could be changed.
To be frank, I didn’t believe him at first. How could it be a belief? I’m an intelligent and highly educated person, I wouldn’t be so dumb as to spend years getting lost just because I’d heard someone else say they did, would I?
To prove my point, I recounted to him several other tales of my getting lost – walking for hours in an enormous forest in St Germaine-en-Laye because I didn’t know how to get back the way I’d come, being two hours late for the first date with my husband because I couldn’t find his apartment, driving round and round Eindhoven for my sister’s wedding and arriving just in time to see the married couple leave the church. I told him about all the endless wrong turns I’d taken which had added hours to my journey times, the innumerable 3-point turns I’d made upon thinking I was going the right way only to discover I wasn’t. I even admitted to the number of times I’d headed out of a shop in the wrong direction having only gone in a few minutes earlier.
He wasn’t in the least bit convinced. He repeated what he thought; that my lack of a sense of direction was nothing more than a limiting belief. A strong and long-held belief maybe, but a belief nonetheless.
I started to wonder. Was he right? Had I really accepted as the truth the belief I would struggle getting around because my mother did, and behaved accordingly? I started to feel a little less certain that a sense of direction was something you’d either got or not. My friend explained the difference was that some people developed strategies for getting around and others didn’t. He said it was a skill, admittedly one that had to be learned, but still a skill. It wasn’t the innate ability I’d always believed.
We had a look at how I approached getting around. Well, truth be told, it wasn’t pretty and there certainly wasn’t any strategy involved. I’d just get in the car with my sat nav to hand and hope for the best. I’d come out of the shop chatting on my phone or reading my shopping list and simply wander off without concentrating. I’d hazard a guess whether to turn left or right at a road junction if I wasn’t sure, depending upon what the majority of the traffic in front of me did!
I began thinking there might be something in what my friend was suggesting, so the next time I had a long journey to make somewhere new I tried a different approach. I had a look at a map beforehand to get my bearings, I googled route instructions and read them thoroughly and as I was driving along, I made a conscious effort to note the major landmarks I was passing.
And, guess what? It worked!!! I arrived and returned home without getting lost. Encouraged, I repeated my approach on another journey, again with success. I took my dogs for a long walk in a new area and, once again, we got there and back without any problems. I went shopping and made a point of noting what I’d passed immediately before going into the store. I found I stopped saying to people I had no sense of direction. I began to fully accept the possibility that I could get around without difficulty – and to wonder how I’d ever thought anything different.
And so I can now navigate successfully from A to B. But it begs the question. What unknown limiting beliefs do you have that are negatively affecting what you do?