The Compass Analogy (aka F%ck your goals)

GPS is stupid. No one knows how to use a compass anymore. 

And that’s a bad thing. Come the zombie apocalypse, the GPS satellites will go down eventually, and your phone will no longer be able to tell you how to get to Atlanta.

More importantly, you’re missing an important lesson on how to think about making progress towards your goals.

Warning: I’m going to teach you a bit about how to use a compass and a map. So you may learn something. You’ve been warned.

Imagine that you’ve got someplace you want to go, maybe another town that’s 20 miles away, over some hills and through a forest. There aren’t roads to take you directly there, so you’ll need to travel over the hills and through the forest. That’s important – you can’t see your destination.

Your first step is to figure out where you are. 

You take out your map, and you look for some landmarks (streets, mountain peaks, water) to help you determine where you are on your map. You match what you see when you look around to what the map tells you that you should see.

Now you know where you are.

Next, you need to figure out which way you’re facing, and orient your map to your orientation. 

You choose a couple of close landmarks, and use them to orient your map. You could use the sun’s position in the sky, especially if you know the time of day. You could also use a road if one’s visible nearby.

Now your map’s facing the same way you are.

And now, you need to determine which compass direction you need to travel. 

Find your destination on the map, and put your compass down on your map pointing from your current location to your destination, and note the compass orientation of your destination. Let’s say you need to head northeast at 45 degrees.

Now you know which way to travel, and you can put your map away for a little while.

It’s time to start walking – but which way do you go?

Use your compass to find 45 degrees (northeast) from your current location. You COULD walk while staring down at your compass…and then trip over a tree root.

Or, you could use your compass to find a visible waypoint that’s at about 45 degrees (northeast) from your current position. “There’s a tree over there at about 45 degrees – let’s walk towards that tree!” Ideally, you pick something that’s far enough away that you can walk for a while before you get there, because once you do you’ll take your compass out and check your bearings again.

As you walk, you’ll occasionally take out your compass and map to check that you’re still on course.

At times you’ll have to veer off course (“Don’t run into that ox!” “Let’s find a narrower place to cross this stream.”), so you’ll need to use your map and compass to get yourself pointed back at your objective.

Let’s bring this analogy back to your fitness journey. Imagine you’re aiming to lose fat…

You start with a consultation with your nutrition coach who takes measurements and initial photos, and you review a one-week food log.

This is “figure out where you are now,” and serves as the first piece of your journey.

With your coach, you’ll outline your goals. 

This is deciding where you’re headed, so you can make a path to get there from where you are.

Next, you’ve got to set a course. 

Now your coach is essential. You can define your starting point and goal on your own, but the course to get there is where your coach earns their money. In most cases, one of a few strategies will be essential to making progress:

  1. Increase food quality
  2. Increase volume of leafy/colorful vegetables
  3. Increase volume of protein
  4. Increase water consumption
  5. Increase movement across the day

Which one should you start with? Ask your coach.

And then you’ve got to start walking. 

F%ck your destination.

You’ve got a direction (“Go towards that tree!” “Eat protein at every meal!” “Drink powdered greens every morning!”), and that’s all that matters.

Let’s repeat that: once you’ve set your goal, your destination, it doesn’t matter anymore. You’ve got to approach your work on a daily basis, and commit to the daily work to move you towards your goals. 

Don’t worry about the town you’re walking towards. Just look at the next tree. And when you get to that tree, be sure you’re on the right course, and adjust your heading as necessary.

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