Wayfinding to Use Your Best Clues

After much thought, made reasonable and immediately useful with a generous dose of “decide already!” impulsiveness, I’m declaring 2011 The Year of Better Habits. Want to join me?

Here’s the thing: I’m a big fan of goal-setting, I really am. However I’m also a fan of not forcing it, and letting goals simmer some before you declare them goals. In other words, I’m a huge fan of wayfinding, process tweaking, and enjoying the journey.

  • Goal setting — big fan. It’s good stuff when you can ‘begin with the end in mind.’ However it requires you have ample clarity with what that ‘end’ is all about. You have to decide, and you have to choose it, ready to take concrete action.
  • Forcing it — not a fan. When I feel I’m forcing something, my gut level intuition will ask, “What’s your rush?” suspecting that my clarity isn’t clear at all, and I’m trying to put the proverbial cart before the horse.
  • Wayfinding — HUGE fan. Wayfinding is Nānā i ke kumu; it’s “look to the source” and the grounding Sense of Place stuff that will cause you to Ho‘ohanohano; conduct yourself with dignity and distinction along the way. Those are two heavy hitters as far as our Managing with Aloha values go; they merge to help define and brand your Alaka‘i self-leadership.

“How do we tell direction? We use the best clues that we have.”
— Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson
[I’ll add a footnote giving you the full context of this quote.]

From a universal perspective, wayfinding is similar to the Chinese Tao, ‘The Way.’ Here’s a juicy bit from The Spirit of The Chinese Character by Barbara Aria and Russell Eng Gon:

“Originally, tao meant simply ‘a course of action,’ perhaps a military one: The [calligraphy] character combines ‘foot’ or ‘to follow,’ with ‘the leader‘ — a ‘head’ topped with the two plumes that were used in ancient days to signify the rank of general.”

“To Confucius tao became the ‘way’ of moral rectitude— the way we do what we do. It was Lao-tzu who interpreted Tao as the law, or truth of the universe, the oneness from which sprang the ten thousand things, each of which contains within it the law or tao of its own being. In Taoism, to see not only things but the tao of things, is to follow the Tao.”

Tao Calligraphy

So back to 2011 as The Year of Better Habits.

I don’t have the crystal clear clarity of a specific goal in mind (gasp! I really don’t), much less those “ten thousand things” springing from the oneness of the Tao, but I’m pretty clear about my wayfinding m.o. — how I want to go about finding my way. I know of the person I want to be. So my how has to do with the collection of habits I want to keep front and center as I do stuff all the coming year through.

On-purpose, well-chosen habits are generous helpers. With the company of good habits I can trust in the quality of my inputs. Then good begets good; my habits help me determine the quality of my resulting outputs. They’ve become a great success structure.

So if a great goal eludes you for the 2011 focus you’re craving, don’t worry and don’t force it. It’ll come to you in good time. Nānā i ke kumu; look to your source, use the best clues you’ve got, and settle into your sense of place. Start with the Ho‘ohanohano part, and cultivate the good habits which will help you conduct yourself with distinction.

Join me in the wayfinding, and we’ll talk story along the way.
Sound good?

Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou; Happy New Year!

Two views of the Wa‘a ~ the outrigger canoe

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Here’s the footnote I promised:
Wikipedia defines wayfinding this way: “Wayfinding encompasses all of the ways in which people and animals orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place… Historically, wayfinding refers to the techniques used by travelers over land and sea to find relatively unmarked and often mislabeled routes.”

It is this ‘historical way’ that wayfinding has been most meaningful to me, and I immediately think of Nainoa Thompson who wrote the foreword for me in Managing with Aloha, and the wayfinding of his Polynesian Voyaging Society: Before the invention of the compass, sextant and clocks, or more recently, the satellite-dependant Global Positioning System (GPS), Polynesians navigated open ocean voyages without instruments, through careful observation of natural signs. As Nainoa explains,

The star compass is the basic mental construct for navigation. We have Hawaiian names for the houses of the stars-the places where they come out of the ocean and go back into the ocean. If you can identify the stars, and if you have memorized where they come up and go down, you can find your direction. The star compass is also used to read the flight path of birds and the direction of waves. It does everything. It is a mental construct to help you memorize what you need to know to navigate.”

“How do we tell direction? We use the best clues that we have. We use the sun when it is low on the horizon. Mau has names for how wide and for the different colors of the sun path on the water. When the sun is low, the path is tight; when the sun is high it gets wider and wider. When the sun gets too high you cannot tell where it has risen. You have to use other clues.”

“Sunrise is the most important part of the day. At sunrise you start to look at the shape of the ocean-the character of the sea. You memorize where the wind is coming from. The wind generates the swells. You determine the direction of the swells, and when the sun gets too high, you steer by them. And then at sunset we repeat the observations. The sun goes down-you look at the shape of the waves. Did the wind change? Did the swell pattern change? At night we use the stars. We use about 220 stars by name-having memorized where they come up, where they go down.”
— Nainoa Thompson

You can read more here: Modern Wayfinding by Nainoa Thompson for the Polynesian Voyaging Society


  1. Chris DeWeese says

    Thanks for the great post, I am all in for making this the year of better habits. I was given MWA as a Christmas gift and I have just finished the Ho‘ohana chapter.

    Last November I took a leadership role in my company and hope to make 2011 a banner year for my group. I plan to use MWA with a little help from David Allen’s Getting Things Done to move in the correct direction.

    Thanks for you wisdom and insights and I will start blogging my progress soon.

    San Diego CA

    • Rosa Say says

      Aloha Chris, and a warm welcome to our Ho‘ohana Community! Please send my mahalo to the person who gifted MWA to you too :)

      I love your choice of words here, that you “took” that leadership role, and that you’ll be the maker of the group ~ you’ll ho‘o, and make things happen. I have a posting in drafts about making, and you’re adding fuel to my fire!

      As for GTD ~ another thing I’m a big fan of. If you use the search box here on the blog you’ll find several posts in the archives about it, but do reach out again and let me know anytime I can help!

      And blogging your progress? Yes! Yes! YES! Send me the link once you’ve set it up!
      Sending much aloha your way,

    • Rosa Say says

      Aloha Pat, so good to see you here! Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou :)

      Great add, that “a true Wayfinder is willing to break previously-set-up patterns of orientation” and for me personally in 2011, that’s exactly it. In 2010 I realized I was willing to and eager to, and 2011 will be about adding in generous, healthy doses of adventure.