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Our Maps of the World

The human brain is an amazing organ. The wiring is now known to be flexible and adaptable throughout life. That wiring is what gives each person a unique view of the world, their own . . . , individual . . . , World Map.

In times of change and transition, we are disoriented. Our brains start by searching through our maps for familiar terrain, places, and paths — the ones that have helped us successfully navigate our experience.  If we fail to find a map that can serve us, we may reach a point where we agree with the old map makers, who when reaching the end of the known world, wrote, “Beyond here there be dragons.”

In our organizations and relationships, all of us act and react based on our maps. This works well until we are confronted with the extraordinary. The extraordinary can take many forms, an organization shake-up, a stock market collapse, a trip to another country, a death. When we encounter the extraordinary, we are invited to choose: turn back to the familiar and safety of our known map or confront and befriend the dragons of the unknown, creating a new map.

We were talking of dragons, Tolkien and I
In a Berkshire Bar. The big workman
Who had sat silent and sucked his pipe
All evening, from his empty mug
With gleaming eye glanced toward us:
“I seen ’em myself!” he said fiercely.
                 C.S. Lewis in The Alliterative Metre

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