I came across an interesting study where a researcher had people walk in unfamiliar territory and they went in circles when they couldn’t see the sun. The circling was even worse when they were blindfolded. The researchers were trying to collect empirical data to support the age-old idea that when humans get lost they walk in circles.
Here’s a piece of the beginning of the study so you know to what I’m referring:
Common belief has it that people who get lost in unfamiliar terrain often end up walking in circles. Although uncorroborated by empirical data, this belief has widely permeated popular culture. Here, we tested the ability of humans to walk on a straight course through unfamiliar terrain in two different environments: a large forest area and the Sahara desert. Walking trajectories of several hours were captured via global positioning system, showing that participants repeatedly walked in circles when they could not see the sun. Conversely, when the sun was visible, participants sometimes veered from a straight course but did not walk in circles.
We tested various explanations for this walking behavior by assessing the ability of people to maintain a fixed course while blindfolded. Under these conditions, participants walked in often surprisingly small circles (diameter < 20 m), though rarely in a systematic direction. These results rule out a general explanation in terms of biomechanical asymmetries or other general biase. Instead, they suggest that veering from a straight course is the result of accumulating noise in the sensorimotor system, which, without an external directional reference to recalibrate the subjective straight ahead, may cause people to walk in circles.
~ read the entire study HERE
Now, as fascinating as this research is, let’s take the idea into a more abstract thought… and go farther.
Or rather, further. “Farther” is for physical distance and “further” for metaphorical, or figurative, distance. (Sorry-not-sorry for the word-nerd-ism.)
What is your fixed point?
A goal might be a fixed point…
- if your goal is to be a doctor, there’s a direct path to get there. It might take a long time, but you can discover which schools to attend, courses to take, and what practicum is needed.
- if you want a thriving marriage, you focus on your spouse and learn each other’s nuances. You read, attend marriage workshops, and perhaps even look for a couple to mentor you.
- and it works for small goals too – if you want a vegetable garden, you need to prepare the soil, plant seeds of the specific vegetables you want to eventually harvest, water the seeds and wait.
This isn’t hard.
Too often we drift. We wonder why we are feeling like we’re going in circles in life. There doesn’t seem like there’s any progress.
If this is the case, I’m going to suggest we don’t have a fixed point – a goal. Or a particular goal is too big – it needs to be broken into smaller goals.
Are you clear on your goal? Or goals…
1- Have you written your goal down?
A written plan is important for any goal. Perhaps you’ve used the SMART method to determine your goal? (S = specific | M = measurable | A = achievable | R = relevant | T = time limited) — Click HERE for a worksheet to do this exercise.
2 – Do you have accountability partners for your goal?
Many people can handle reaching a goal on their own. However, having accountability partners makes the goal much easier to achieve. And then you have someone or many to celebrate with when you achieve it! Perhaps “accountability” is an uncomfortable word. What about a “mastermind group”?
3 – Are you reading and learning about your goal?
Most individuals can’t know everything about a topic. We all need input from other sources to solve a problem along the way or make better choices when we’re reaching for a goal.
4 – Mentors help you visualize the goal.
Do you have mentors who have already been where you want to go? Even if they don’t know you, it’s possible to have people you can learn from just by understanding their decisions and the path they’ve followed.
5 – Do you have milestones to mark your way to the goal?
Have you broken your goal down into various milestones? Sometimes a goal is huge, and you need smaller successes along the way to remain motivated.
If you’re going in circles…
Try one of these actions to find your fixed point.
What goals are you trying to reach? Make sure your path is straight…