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The Top 10 Lessons for Life of Navigating with Map and Compass

I've always been intrigued by topographical maps, the way in which mountains, valleys, lakes, slopes steep and gradual, rivers, tracks and natural features just 'pop out' before one's very eyes - as long as one has learned how to read them. There are so many parallels with life that I couldn't resist sharing them as part of my Mountain Series of Top 10 lists. You can see also BA414 and BA428.

1. Have you selected the right map for your journey? Is the level of detail appropriate and are you sufficiently experienced to recognize that characteristic?

2. Understand the concepts of True North, Grid North, Magnetic North and deviation and be able to apply them. If you are going the wrong way, at least do so on purpose!

3. Understand the scale of your map and be able to estimate distance. In the right condition of readiness it's great to make a stretch but make sure you recognize the mile too far.

4. Know your average speed over different terrains. When you know your approximate arrival time it's much easier to realize when you have gone astray.

5. Ensure your map shows your starting point, your destination and the
intervening area. Entering uncharted territory, know how to prepare a map adequate for your purposes and fine tune it as your vision becomes clearer.

6. From your map be able to set a compass bearing allowing for magnetic deviation. The best tools are useless unless we know how to use them properly.

7. Know how to fix your position by taking bearings on recognizable fixed
points. Once you have mastered this skill you need never be lost again. What
are the fixed points in your life?

8. Be prepared for what the map does not tell you … the season of year, the weather to be expected and in your current project, what else?

9. From your map be able to recognize those hazards which it is advisable to
circumnavigate … and the conditions under which doing so becomes vital.

10. A line on a map depicting a footpath does not necessarily mean a track
which can be seen on the ground. No signs may have been left by the last traveler. When you are familiar with navigation and have a map that will pose no problem.

About the submitter:
This piece was written by Martin Sawdon who can be reached at or visited on the web at

Martin has a special interest in people in the workplace and the creation of Sustainable Workplaces, corporations which are extraordinarily profitable, extraordinarily effective if public sector but get there by growing people rather than consuming them like a fossil fuel. He coaches clients with integrity and great senses of humor, who are determined to realize achievements beyond their wildest dreams.

Coaching-Works! has been featured on radio and television.

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