Four cardinal points to purposeful pathfinding

You have purpose and destiny, and a choice of routes to achieve them.

But your trail ahead is not complete in all locales; marked pathways and dedicated passages do not yet link all points. Undeveloped portions of your route must be bushwhacked. Some of it must be traversed in the dark.

You are a pathfinder.

Trails of destination—those leading toward an ultimate goal—are trails of purpose. Whether they’re broadly paved and popular, pleasantly meandering and companionable, or frighteningly trackless and lonesome, your life pathways serve not only to lead you to your purpose and destiny, but also as the means to develop them.

Purposeful goals are not easily achieved. Only by overcoming challenges to your progress do you advance toward it. Only by applying wisdom gained from experience do you succeed against future trials. Only by dissolving roadblocks with creative solutions do you triumph. Only by proceeding do you eventually arrive.

But just how do you find your way when you’ve never been there before? Here are the four cardinal points to purposeful pathfinding:

1. Define your destination. Plotting your path, whether it is creating a piece of artwork, advancing your career, or building an investment portfolio for your retirement, requires a clear understanding of the final goal. As Lewis Carroll pointed out, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Determine what the specific end result looks like with as much clarity as possible. Answer the six W’s: who, what, when, where, which, and why.

2. Take attainable steps. Although you cannot traverse the 3,100 miles of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail from Canada to Mexico in a single effort, you can conquer it by placing one foot in front of the other in an ongoing series of attainable steps. Each dawn offers just a day’s worth of new opportunities along the way; tackle huge endeavors through a series of achievable goals—one at a time.

3. Identify your benchmarks. In the popular sport of orienteering, competitors navigate a course in diverse and unfamiliar terrain with just a topographical map and a compass to find “control points.” It is only when they are located on the ground that the navigators can match them to those on the map and know exactly where they are—and how far they must yet contend. Map your route to your objective with a series of waypoints to both control and measure your progress. What are your intermediate target accomplishments and dates?

4. Stay on track. A dog sniffing out a rabbit feverishly tracks a baffling maze of leads here, there, and everywhere. All new directions are promising, and it eagerly and endlessly follows them—around and around, back and forth, to and fro. Such rabbit trails can keep you both engaged and confused. So avoid the pointless meanderings, the fruitless obsessions, the wasteful frivolities. Intentionally pursue only those actions that are relevant to reaching your destination.

The pathways you choose to follow are where you live your life: not merely for the length of your conscious days, but for the sheer abundance and the incredible vitality and the lush richness and the overstuffed fullness and the unlimited possibilities of your moment-by-moment existence, and what you can learn and what you can accomplish and what you can share and how you can enrich both others and this world as you travel and explore your own purposeful pathways.

Your journey begins new every moment.

Your future is lived only as you create it.

Now go. Your purpose—your destiny—awaits!

MasterPoint: Plot your way to productive living with the four cardinal points of purposeful pathfinding.