Intro to the Phases of WayfindingDec 10, 2021
Wayfinding is not only the name of our organization and the signature system I’ve been contemplating, embodying, and weaving to find my way and support others finding their way in life, leadership, and organizational evolution. It is also a long-standing human skill that has existed across time and still exists in rich cultural traditions.
Wayfinding is our ability to find our way to places we have maybe never been before, or to places that we have been, but on a different day, as a different self, in a different time, and so in that way, too, they can be new.
Whether seeking an inner state change, arriving at a new place in the outer sense, or wanting to collectively navigate in a dynamic way, the phases of Wayfinding are what help us get there. And understanding the phases can improve our Wayfinding abilities.
I see Wayfinding occurring in three phases: Orienting, Navigating, and Landing.
It’s important to know that Wayfinding is a cycle. Because as soon as we Land, we begin Orienting again. As part of this, we can’t skip steps! If we try to, we need to go back and account for what we tried to bypass. It's also a fractal system. There's an Orienting to Orienting, a Navigating to Orienting, a Landing to Orienting — and then we tip into Navigating.
Here, I'll explore each of the three phases below to help you orient to the power of Wayfinding.
In Orienting, the first step of Wayfinding, the main task is to gain a sense of what's going on.
What's the context?
Where am I internally?
Where am I externally?
Where do I wish to go?
What are the hazards?
It's very spatial. Very-sense based. Very curiosity- and assessment-based.
In Orienting, we call on our sensing—internally and externally. We track patterns or connect dots between things we see now and what we've seen in the past. We feel called towards something and may have an inspiration for an outcome or goal. In this way, Orienting calls on our sensing skills and our mind’s ability to track patterns.
Sensing is KEY to Orienting.
In Disconnection Consciousness settings, there’s a common (often unconscious) pattern of skipping Orienting with rationale for diving right into Navigating.
But as we all know from tragically common, bad team meetings, diving in without Orienting as a group creates Disorientation and impedes our ability to Navigate. Without answering, “What is the purpose of the meeting? What are we trying to accomplish? What are the roles?”, we create swirl. A literal headwind for alignment, clarity, and progress. That’s why such meetings are *sloppy* and costly. In the worst cases, there can be intentional Disorientation to manipulate others.
So when we invest in Orienting, we get a better result in our Navigating.
Certainly it can pendulum the other way with over-focus on preparing for the journey so that we -never- even get underway. But in organizations, we need to find the middle way of Orienting such that we can powerfully Navigate.
I invite you to fall in love with Orienting and get great at it. Orienting is a powerful lever for ourselves, our relationships, and team. It’s undoubtedly a critical factor that distinguishes great leaders and teams. When done in a balanced, thoughtful way, Orienting *always* makes the outcome better.
To be great leaders, we need to first get GREAT at Orienting ourselves and our teams. This sets everyone up for greater success in the second phase of Wayfinding —Navigating.
Navigating is where we choose a path and continually make dynamic moment-by-moment choices — choosing things and course corrections as we journey through a phase, a cycle, an experiment, a chapter. It is active motion towards an ideal outcome or the living of a question.
Navigating in a Disconnection state has a rigidity to it. “We made a plan and we’re sticking to it!” “These are our OKRs for the year and we better hit them!” —even though potentially the entire industry or societal context may have changed and our OKRs are now irrelevant or impossible to achieve.
You get the point.
You've probably seen this happen once or twice.
Or been involved in it, or maybe even done it!
I know I have.
Trying to control our Navigation through life chokes the magic out of the journey.
It is great hubris to think we know all the best options in life.
To Navigate well, we have to understand the balance between discipline and surrender, between humility and confidence.
Navigation asks us to develop active sensing and flexibility and to deeply embody the Wayfinding principle: Follow the Feeling Not the Form. To deeply develop the capacity to sense what calls us and learn to follow it in a way that’s free from our mental narrative and projections. Sensing and following the call does NOT mean we only pursue what’s comfortable. It’s the pursuit of what brings us alive, what is aligned with our essence, what will be a path to our deeper becoming.
When we fixate on the form, we can miss that something else has arisen in life that is asking us to evolve. When we understand that and let go, we become great surfers of the life waves, of the ever-emergent conditions.
Navigating relies on presence, openness to the mystery, trust in life, and quick course corrections.
It invites us to love the journey and let go of fixation with thinking we know the destination. When we do, Navigating is rich, powerful, and full of unexpected delights.
Landing is the final phase of Wayfinding. It is the close of a cycle, arrival at a threshold, completion of a project, accomplishment of a goal. It’s the time when we land externally and internally in new selves changed by the journey.
It is how we land the learning and the journey in our bones.
Landing is required for transformation to truly take root and be made real. Otherwise we miss the gold and continue on as voracious doers or seekers. Landing is how things settle into the body through reflection, integration, and meaning making.
And it only happens through pause.
Landing is where we learn, celebrate, grieve, and release what no longer serves.
This is where we do retrospectives on “What went well? What was challenging? What do we want to do differently?”
When we don't Land, we lose the benefit of savoring our journeys and celebrating together. These are the delicious moments in life. We don't want to constantly be working the fields if we don't get to enjoy the harvest. Yet far too many workplaces operate this way.
The most common blind spot around Landing is: not being with it at all! The false belief that fuels the avoidance of Landing is, “If we rush on to the next thing, we'll be more efficient and we'll get there faster.” Not so.
If we gorge experience after experience, project after project, year after year, job after job, date after date, trip after trip— we will still feel empty. Because if we don't create time to digest, we literally miss the nourishment. Since Orienting and Landing are often the most overlooked phases in Wayfinding, this is what makes our Navigating anemic.
When we come to a threshold and pause to Land, our learnings help us jump to new levels. The time spent in reflection makes us wiser, more effective, and raises our bar for 100% aliveness.
Cultivating the art of Landing is an enormous opportunity area for all leaders and teams I’ve worked with. To learn, celebrate, grieve, and renew together as necessary cycles that catalyze growth and joy in continual expansion through our Wayfinding of life.
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