“If the journey is the destination, then we must learn how to become better travelers. To become better travelers, we must first learn to orient ourselves. Where are you now? Do you want to be here? If not, why do you want to move on?”
— The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
If you were going to take a road trip, where would you go? How would you go? Would you get in the car and take off? Would you create lists and plan for weeks, making sure to notify everyone you know that you won’t be around for a while? Would you take the safest route? The fastest route? The most picturesque route even if it was a bit isolated? Would you get stuck trying to decide on where you want to end up?
A trip to the store is familiar enough to allow us to get into the car and drive. But a trip across the country would be a much greater endeavor. It requires a bit more planning and uncertainty, as there are many miles between here and the destination. There are mandatory off-ramps to refuel and take breaks. It is never as simple as getting in the car and driving. There are a few things that need to happen Before You Begin any journey.
As with a cross-country road trip, our own intention is the only reliable gauge that can keep us on course to a life that brings us significance. But why in our own life do we live distracted from our intention? Why are we looking for others to approve our choices and agree with our plans? Why are we living lives that don’t mean that much to us?
When you think about how you make decisions for your family, career, interests, relationships, health, and such, you can take a lot from the road trip comparison. From wherever you are at this point, there are a number of steps that fill the gap between starting and reaching where you want to go. The problem is that you can lose your way between here and there. There are twists and turns that you don’t see coming, and those unexpected forks can create bumps that throw you off course. The ultimate goal of this book is to help you keep your eyes on the road and to show you how anything less than being aware and intentional creates obstacles that prevent you from staying the course.
In order to have a life that will have meaning, you will have to find purpose in what you do. While few circumstances are controllable, you always have the capacity to take what life gives and live it on your own terms. How you want to show up and step forward in life is always in your control. Giving yourself the capacity to focus on what matters amidst the chaos that shows up in life is an invaluable tool. Before You Begin locates this tool for you and teaches you how to use it.
Before You Begin provides a flexible framework, so you can quickly assess and settle on the task at hand, so then you can drive. So you can move through the endless distractions and enjoy your journey. It’s about forgetting where you just came from because you have already been there and done that. It’s about having enough confidence to trust that the destination you’ve chosen is worth committing to, and it’s about knowing that uncertainty before arrival is part of the plan.
Settling on a few things Before You Begin heading down the road will not only get you to where you want to go, but will give you an optimal experience to navigate the changes that are certain to show up. Without Before You Begin, life’s inevitable problems, frustrations, and discomforts can totally rattle you. So much so that you might get twisted and bent and start reacting without thinking. You lose your way. You end up giving up on your ideal just to make it through the day. You find yourself stuck, stagnant, hustling in circles, and exhausted, but getting nowhere. This exhaustion, stagnancy, and lostness can play out in a myriad of ways. Here are some “stuck” situations that my clients have found themselves in that could ring true for you too:
· Your job sucks and waking up every day is miserable. You’ve had three jobs in the past three years, and they all looked promising until you start working at each one. You don’t even like what you do, but it pays the bills. You live for the end of the day. And for the weekend. Starting over seems like way too much work for no guarantee of happiness.
· You have a bucket list, but nothing is getting checked off. Traveling to Europe, jumping out of an airplane, starting your own consulting company, or buying your first guitar and learning to play your favorite song—you never seem to be able to find the time to fit these life goals in.
· You want to grow your business. You’ve tried a multitude of courses, seminars, read books, and participated in pricey mastermind groups. You’ve put a lot of ideas into action, but it just isn’t working.
· You recently got divorced and want to start dating again. You’ve read some self-help books on the subject and taken lots of advice from friends, family, and colleagues. You’ve even gone on some dates. But it hasn’t been going well.
· Your doctor has warned you about your weight and your health, and though you’re trying—you’ve listened to health podcasts, read books about bettering your health, tried changing your diet and regularly exercising—nothing sticks.
· You know you commit to way too much. The schedule you have keeps you rushing from one promise to another. You are constantly letting people down by showing up late and missing out on the relationships that you love. You are spread so thin that no one really knows you anymore. You don’t know yourself anymore. But you can’t say no, especially to something good.
Similar to the people in these examples, if you’ve been trying to change an aspect of your life for the better—but no matter how much you try, you find yourself stuck—then this book is for you. Before You Begin provides you a simple and flexible framework from which to operate so that you can move from a place of stagnancy to take a step forward to where you want to go. This book helps you establish the foundation to operate from before you take any actions. You see, before you engage with any programs, courses, books, coaches, seminars, or mastermind groups, for any of those to be effective, you need to have an idea of where you are heading Before You Begin.
Before You Begin guides you to change the way you are currently engaging the world so that you can experience different results. Results that align with what you intend as opposed to reacting to whatever happens in each moment. In order to begin creating a new habit, Before You Begin’s framework allows you a simple way to recognize and create new paths to think about situations where you do not yet have an answer. Compass Form is the name of this book’s framework.
Your Compass, Not Your Map
Compass Form is a framework for you to organize the chaos so that you can take an action step. Compass Form is not about building a plan. It is a process to keep you moving in a sensible direction. It gives you the ability to be wise and flexible because your attention goes to what you can control, even though life shifts quickly. It also allows you to get somewhere because it allows you to see life for what it is (as opposed to how you might imagine, hope, or fear it to be) and make an adjustment to control what you can. It allows you to quickly ground yourself in the moment you feel lost, so you can return focus on where to place your next step and then act.
As the name implies, Compass Form supports you in a way similar to a compass. It will not tell you exactly where to go or what you should do—as a map or set of directions would. But, like a compass, it simply clarifies where you are and where you want to go overall, so that you can decide the next step to take that orients you in your decided direction.
Unlike a set of directions or a map, life isn’t clear. Life’s journey moves and shifts. Plans can break down and become chaotic in a moment. A compass allows you to be present to your present circumstances and to any unforeseen problems long enough to understand them and navigate them. The compass points you in the direction of your overall aim. It helps you to wisely move, even without seeing every future step in the entire journey. The compass points you in the direction you know you want to head. It helps you to move around obstacles that don’t appear on a map. This framework assists you to create a clear direction when you lose touch with your life.
Compass Form is about isolating decisions, so you address them specifically and clear some of the chaos that comes with trying to make many decisions at once or trying to make the “perfect” decision. It isn’t about predicting the future. Life is ambiguous and chaotic. The skill that is being built is learning how to quickly make sense of the chaos and being content with the best decision possible given the reality of your circumstances. Compass Form allows you to navigate uncertainty, settle on a decision, and at the same time regularly adjust your course. That’s what you’ll learn to do in this book.
Once you establish and become adept at engaging Compass Form in your life, that’s when you will finally make progress in your journey from where you are to where you want to go.
Me and Compass Form
Who am I? Why should you listen to me? As you’ll soon read in this book, I am someone who found myself stuck and frustrated—in a 12-year rut. While my personal life was pretty good, it was my career that remained stagnant. I was running my own business, but it didn’t carry the satisfaction and meaningfulness that I’d hoped it would—and I couldn’t get out or change that. I tried and tried for over 12 years, but nothing seemed to be working. Though it was debilitating at the time, the framework for emerging from stagnancy—Compass Form—developed from that period and pointing myself in the direction of success and satisfaction came about.
While it seemed frustrating and impossible, through my own pursuit of growing myself in order to live a life of meaning, I came upon several insights that culminated in Compass Form. Though I don’t have a map for success, I found a compass that I used (and continue to use) to orient myself, so I can continue in the direction of success and satisfaction. Over seven years ago, I got out of this stuckness and started my dream job: I became a personal coach. Since then, I’ve guided others out of their stagnancy, so they too can progress to their particular direction of success. Compass Form is the foundational framework that I teach my clients to use to progress to success and satisfaction. Let me share with you the story of one of my clients, Victor.
In early 2019, I was introduced to Victor Rios, owner of Expose Design in Maine. We started talking about the struggles he had been facing with growing his business and getting it to another level. He was a solopreneur who was about five years into being a full-time logo designer. After working through the principles of Compass Form, Victor shared this with me:
“Jacob, I see now how I had never stopped to observe how I was making decisions for my business. With your guidance I came to see I’d been investing in too many places to try and produce growth. I’d thought spending money on marketing, rather than utilizing my current client base, would fix the problem of leveling off. In learning from our coaching around Compass Form, I came to see that there were better uses of my time and energy that didn’t cost me any money and built word-of-mouth referrals. Since then, I have more clients than I can handle myself and have brought on board a salaried employee, plus commission, as an incentive for any new customers the employee can produce. If someone had spoken to me before my coaching with you, I would have argued, “Why pay someone to do what I can do?” But I realize now that I’m not paying someone to do what I can do. I’m investing in someone to help grow my business, and as a bonus, it has saved me time, which is more valuable to me than any dollar amount. Why? Because now I have more time to focus on business development, family life, and my health and wellness. Thanks for providing this insight and tool for me to use and simplify life.”
Overview of Before You Begin
The journey of Before You Begin starts with my story and how I remained stuck for so long, yearning for a different career and trying everything with nothing ever quite working. I start with my story because what I’ve gone through is similar to so many others wanting to make progress but not finding success. The aim of giving my story is for readers to recognize their own struggles, patterns of frustration, and reactionary ways of dealing—but you’ll find more than that. I also outline how I stumbled upon and put into effect what I now call Compass Form to finally get my feet out of the mire and make progress, one step at a time, to a career that I find meaningful. As I mentioned, I’m now a life coach, a dream job that is chocked full of challenge and meaning—what I’d been yearning for, but pre-Compass Form wasn’t able to effect.
After that, we launch into Compass Form. You’ll get a close look at what this approach to life is and what it is not. Through comparisons, examples, reflection questions, and exercises—that you’ll find in every chapter starting in chapter 2—you’ll get to reflect on your own patterns of thinking and acting that have likely kept you stagnant and far from progressing closer to your goals, whether those goals be in terms of your health, career, marriage, etc. You’ll also get plenty of content to increase your understanding of Compass Form.
After that we delve into how to enact Compass Form in your life. How to engage it as your approach to living. Because Compass Form manifests in three steps—observe, focus, and act—we spend time parsing these concepts. Again, you’ll get plenty of example scenarios, questions, and practical activities so that you are equipped to engage Compass Form in your life in order to finally get out of stagnation and frustration and start making real progress toward where you want to be. At any point in this book, if you have a question, idea, or you decide you want to explore getting one-on-one guidance in engaging Compass Form in your own life, please contact me—firstname.lastname@example.org and https://themountainpassway.com. I am available for you.
Organize the Chaos to Finally Progress!
The truth is, you can’t and don’t know everything about what lies ahead. You can’t control all the steps you will need to take. You can only decide if you want to take the steps that will get you to where you want to go.
What you’ll find in Before You Begin is that you quickly move from chaos and confusion to making a sensible decision that will change something in your life. It allows you to find what is currently important, even in the midst of many demands coming at you, so you can get closer to what matters; even when you’re not certain on exactly what that is yet. It guides you to break down any complexity into a simple and tangible action. When you combine consistent steps and your intention stays true, then the end results in what you wanted to see happen.
In the next chapter I’ll show you what Compass Form can look like from my own story. The point is to help you see another way to engage your life, not to look at my life as a model of success for you to emulate. Another reason for sharing my story is to show you what living proof looks like when a person enacts Compass Form in hopes that you’ll get the inspiration and motivation to engage it.
It’s time to get out your compass! Turn the page to get started in orientating yourself in your unique direction of success.