Monday, April 9, 2012

Have I Mis-Read the Map?

There have been a few times in my life where I've had to stop and admit that I have mis-read the map and that I'm not where I meant to be. It happened a few years ago while hiking on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I was out on a daytrip on my own and learned later that I had completely missed a critical trail intersection.

Oblivious to my error, I ventured on the wrong trail and did my very best to get the features of the mountains unfolding before me to match what the map told me to expect. "Well, that rock outcropping could be a ravine, I suppose..." and "perhaps the trail has been re-worked and the map doesn't know it, and that's why I'm climbing up where the map says it should be flat..." I successfully convinced myself that I was indeed where I thought I should be.

At some point though, the seeds of doubt did enter my mind. My ability to rationalize the obvious differences between the "map and the mountain" became strained. I became frustrated. And finally, I stopped. And admitted I had made a mistake. And eventually turned around.

And, as I re-traced my steps and began to see where I had gone wrong, and discovered that the map did indeed match the mountain... I laughed.

I laughed at how easily I can see the world according to how I believe it should be. And, I laughed at how often my perceptions are based on a cultural norm or longheld belief that may or may not be applicable. I laughed at how the idea of "you spot it, you got it" can so easily become "I only can spot what I got."

So, the good question might be... "How might I have mis-read the map?" Or better, "How are my longheld beliefs and perceptions informing the way I am seeing this issue?"

And then, I can choose my next steps wisely.