The Art of Life Navigation - Navigating for Success
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The Art of Life Navigation

The Art of Life Navigation



There are about 6,000,000,000 people on the planet. We all get through life somehow. Some fare better than others. We are all driven or guided by an invisible force, an internal GPS that most people are unaware of. If you become aware of this force or energy, and learn to pay attention to it, you can use it as a resource for a personal breakthrough. If you are not attentive to your internal energies or rhythms, however, you become a Victim to its power. Rather than recognizing and working with this powerful force, Victims slip into the downward spiral of life and careen toward inflammation and eventual despair.

Navigators have an advantage over Survivors and Victims. They seem to do a better job of feeding their Triune Brain and using Breakthrough Thinking to live extraordinary lives of success, accomplishment and satisfaction. Navigators do not take things for granted. They recognize and appreciate what they have to deal with in their lives and strive to create and cope with the demands that life imposes. They also declare and chart their own life course, learning along the way how to succeed. At the same time, they take care of their inner world through self-regulation. They take care of their bodies and energies and realize that they need their brains, minds and bodies to support them in their pursuit of success and happiness.

Navigators have a sense of what guides them towards living a great life. They have a map or GPS to help orient them as they move through their lives. Like most of us, Navigators have to deal with life’s frustrations, disappointments and traumas, but at some point in their life cycle they break through into the world of navigation. Their GPS is both external and internal. They think about and design a plan to move from where they currently are toward their desired visions and goals. And they strive to understand their internal world and how their brains work. They consistently work on enhancing life-sustaining thinking and reducing whatever self-limiting beliefs and self-destructive behaviors get in the way of living a joyful and enduring life.

In the external world, Navigators ask and answer the four key questions:

  • What is it that they want to accomplish?
  • Why are these accomplishments important to them?
  • Who do they have to be in order to succeed?
  • How can they rewire their brains to accomplish their goals?

    They may use a formula to keep themselves focused and on track. Perhaps the formula might be something like:

    Success = Passion + Goals + Actions + Resiliency.

    Navigators know what they want and are aware of what is in their hearts. They set specific targets to shoot for, choose key actions to take on a daily basis in order to meet their goals, and they continue to learn and bounce back in the face of life’s problems.

    In order to succeed, Navigators develop competences in a number of key areas. These competencies are like the tools in a carpenter’s toolbox. Navigators use different tools as needed, depending on the situation, rather than using just a few over and over again. This is just like a master carpenter who is selective in the tools he uses to get a job done right. The choice of tool depends on the situation he is dealing with. A saw works for cutting, a ruler for measuring, a screw driver for screws and a hammer for pounding nails. It would be foolish to just grab any tool that is close by and try to make it work. Would the carpenter ever use a hammer to cut wood? Or a saw to pound nails?

    Navigators first work to design their maps and then use their tools appropriately to fit the situation. Let’s now look at the tools in the Navigator’s toolkit. Some of these are Power Tools, some are Connection Tools and others are Safety Tools.

    SELF AWARENESS: “I know what I am thinking and feeling. I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses.”

Nothing much changes in the absence of self-awareness. Navigators take the time to notice what is going on in their lives and what is happening with the people around them. If they sense discomfort or a break in trust, they evaluate the situation and work to get back on track. They keep track of their thinking and feeling patterns. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They even notice when they don’t act appropriately and make things harder for themselves.

Take Jim, for example.  Jim is a “take charge” kind of guy. He is a very successful entrepreneur; he is action-oriented, quick to respond and would always rather ask for forgiveness than for permission. He often chooses strategies that fail, but he is quick to recognize his impulsive nature and works to get back on track. When he is anxious, he tends to blame others and he is not always cooperative or collaborative. But he has come to recognize these tendencies and is working on toning down his controlling behaviors. He appreciates that his take charge style is often fueled by anxiety. Because he is aware and open to feedback from others, he has broken out of a survival mode of operating into one of navigation. He is now spending more time in Breakthrough Thinking rather than in Breakdown Mode.

VISIONARY THINKING: “I am passionate and I know what I want to accomplish!”

Navigators look into the future and aim to succeed.  They set their sights on challenging targets, even if they don’t initially know what they are doing. It is not unusual for Navigators to fail several times before they get on the right track, learn the right skills and draw in the right resources. Others might think of them as unrealistic dreamers. And they probably are, but they don’t waste much time anguishing about what others think about them. They are too engrossed in their visions and adventures.

Thomas Edison had a vision to create an electric light bulb. He tried thousands of experiments, some say almost 10,000 times to succeed. He did not give up. I imagine there were many times he felt discouraged and wondered if the effort was worth it. But he persevered in making his dream into a reality. He learned along the way. And his vision lit up the world!

RESULTS ORIENTATION: “I know what I want and how to execute!”

Navigators get things done. They tend to be thoughtful about what is important and take actions that lead them toward their goals. They take on challenges and work to be focused in what they are doing. Consequently, they are more successful than Survivors and Victims because they do not waste excessive time in actions that are unproductive or irrelevant to their vision. They are very capable of relaxing and having fun, but when push comes to shove they get back on task and keep the end in sight. Even when they are distracted they are able to get themselves into a good position to make the right choices.

RESPONSIBILITY: “I take responsibility for everything I do and what happens to me!”

Navigators do not make excuses or blame others. They take responsibility for their lives, their actions and the choices they make. They work to figure out what went wrong and to rewire how they go about tackling the challenges they face. When they make a mistake or fail, they waste little time blaming themselves or feeling shame. They strive to understand where their decisions broke down and make the necessary improvements. This skill of breakthrough thinking is essential since failures are frequent when you are playing outside you comfort zone, playing for big stakes and taking on big challenges

Ralph was an investment banker who wanted to be an entrepreneur. He knew nothing about how to think and act like an entrepreneur but nonetheless, that was his vision. He was terrified of stepping out of his comfort zone and had to do a lot of learning and rewiring in order to succeed. He spent the next seven years fumbling in his dream, often falling on his face and bumbling his way from one mistake to another. His banker colleagues often teased him and urged him to be more “responsible” and act like an adult.  Partnering up with a successful entrepreneur, he slowly learned the ropes. Today he is a multimillionaire and respected by his colleagues, staff and other entrepreneurs. He took responsibility for his path, his choices, mistakes and his eventual successes. Now he mentors other entrepreneurs.

EMPATHY: “I care about others and my relationships!”

Navigators appreciate their emotional connections with others. When others are troubled, they empathize. They do not rush in with advice or bring up their own troubles. They keep their own stories to themselves and focus on their partner. They may also check in with key people during the day saying, “I’ve been thinking about you and wanted to connect. How are you doing? Anything you want to share with me!?” Or they connect by text or Facebook to share an experience with someone they care about. Connection releases oxytocin, a hormone that creates a warmth and feel-good emotion in the body. People thrive with oxytocin and shrink inside without it.

LISTENING: “It is a gift to listen!”

We talk too much! Talking is vastly overrated. We talk to make an impression, and we think that others really care about what we have to say. Wrong! People want to be heard and seen. Listening is the gift of intimate caring. When you listen, the other person experiences a sense of being valued and appreciated. They then feel safer with you and might even trust you more. So, if you want to feel important, give the gift of importance to others. They will value you for your generosity. Try talking thirty percent of the time and listening seventy percent. The ROI on listening is immense.

SELF-REGULATION and SAFETY: “We all need a safe harbor!”

When I was a teenager I got my first car. I think it was a 1952 Chevy, stick shift. It had a radiator filled with water which served as the coolant. It was not unusual for my car to overheat on warm days, particularly if I aimed to climb over Clinton Mountain on my way to visit my relatives. As the temperature gauge inched upward toward the boiling point, I would pull over, lift the hood and gently remove the radiator cap to allow the car to cool down.

Our bodies, like old cars, are prone to overheating. Stress, lack of sleep, worry and anger all serve to increase our internal temperatures and bring us closer and closer to boiling over. We can overheat to the point of having a heart attack, inflammation, a panic attack or other severe physical breakdowns. Think of the name “Heart Attack”: something has invaded your body’s immune system and attacked your heart. It is really heart failure but in our culture, perhaps we are more comfortable with the notion of physical breakdowns due to an attack from the outside rather than an internal failure.

Navigators are aware of the potential for overheating and breaking down. They try to pace themselves, pause, take breaks and self-regulate. Every once in a while, perhaps two hours into a task, they stop and take some deep breaths, stretch, take a walk, or talk to a friend. They may walk to a window and gaze out into the distance with a soft gaze, letting their imaginations take them to a distant seashore or vacation site. This open gazing relaxes the body, especially if you take time to actually see what you are looking at.

Navigators know the value of cooling down and self-regulating. They seek a long and healthy life. They realize there is nothing to prove. No need to be heroic in the workplace. Navigators do not push to climb the hill. When necessary, they pull over and cool down.

RESILIENCY: “I don’t give up! I learn from my mistakes, adapt and try again.”

Anything worth doing comes with a good chance of failure. Navigators look forward to failure because that is how they learn what doesn’t work. Rather than feeling defeated, they think about what happened, refresh themselves, think about what to do next and get back into action. They bounce back with renewed energy and application. Failure, renewal and refocused action is their formula for success.

Tracy Austin, a successful woman tennis star, knew something about resilience. After every point won or lost, she would quickly turn her back to the net and slowly walk back to the baseline. It took her about thirty seconds to reach baseline. In that time, she slowed her breathing and heart rate by thirty percent. By the third set, she had over thirty percent energy reserve to draw on to defeat her opponents. Tracy knew something about resilience combined with self-regulation. Do you pause, pull off the road and re-energize like Tracy and my old car? Or do you push and exhaust yourself while trying to live up to an unrealistic expectation? Navigators preserve energy and live longer and healthier lives.

GRATITUDE AND SELF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: “Sometimes you need a pat on the back!”

An excellent practice for enhanced living is to give gratitude. Every day before you begin your day, take a deep breath and give five gratitudes. Think of someone really important to you and be grateful for your relationship. Then think of someone else and again experience the warmth of being grateful. Next, imagine yourself as a young child and express gratitude to yourself. Remember someone who died and contributed to your life. Lastly express gratitude to yourself in the present moment.

You might even want to start a Victory Log. Each day jot down several things you did that day that you feel good about. Perhaps it was an act of generosity and caring, a completed project, fulfilling on a promise or making a difficult phone call. Your victories do not have to be big, just little acts of navigation to activate a dose of dopamine or endorphins to your brain and nervous system.

So there they are: nine life practices you can use to rewire your brain for optimal performance and health. The more you practice these breakthrough competencies, the stronger and healthier you will get. Remember, neurons that fire together get wired together. Life Navigators use these practices to move into Breakthrough Performance and life enhancement. It is not magic or luck. They succeed by observing, pausing, self-renewing and staying focused on their visions. Distractions and wasted worry kill off dreams, success and life. Focused action, clear direction, self-regulation and gratitude heal and sustain life.

I will revisit this notion of Navigation and its competencies in future articles.