Last month, I was in South Africa riding in an open safari vehicle with a ranger at the wheel and a tracker perched on a seat on the front bumper. We were tracking a pride of lions, and our ranger soon spotted a fresh print in the dirt which indicated the pride had passed this spot.
For the next hour we drove down dirt roads around the wide shrubby landscape. Where were we heading? I couldn’t figure it out. But the ranger and tracker knew exactly what they were doing. And then, this:
What I witnessed was a phenomenal demonstration of how to track something wild and elusive, like a lion or leopard. And what they did applies to more than just animals and beyond the boundaries of a game reserve.
You can use their process in your own life to discover something that also may seem wild and elusive: your purpose. It’s about discovering who you are and your true direction that infuses your life with meaning and joy.
When I work with my clients one-on-one, we spend a lot of time on this process. It’s not entirely logical. It relies on a different kind of sensing and knowing, letting a deeper part of you lead the way.
Maybe that sounds a little crazy? But if you’ve been trying to think your way logically, following all the rules and hitting all the “right” goals for success – yet you feel like something is missing from your life – I invite you to try a different way.
Find a hot track
The fresh lion print in the dirt? That’s a hot track. It represents clear evidence of what you’re looking for.
You begin by looking for hot tracks in your life, meaning: activities that light you up. What have you loved to do, so much so that time flew by when you were engaged in them? They feel good, and are not to be confused with things you think you should be doing.
Find the next hot track
After finding the first hot track, our ranger looked for the next one. Did the pride go straight ahead? Did they turn? He interpreted the first track to choose which direction to go.
In your case, infer from your hot tracks what your next track may be:
What feels like fun?
What sparks your curiosity?
What do you feel drawn to?
Go and do that.
When the tracks go cold
Over and over again, our ranger lost the lion tracks. He’d head in the direction he thought the lions went but tracks weren’t there. Did he then keep going in that direction? No. There was no evidence the lions walked that way. He turned around, went back to the last hot track, and tried a different direction.
You do the same thing. If something you try doesn’t hold the magic of a hot track, if it feels like boredom or drudgery, stop. Your track went cold. It’s time to go back to your previous hot track and try a different direction.
It may feel disheartening to hit a dead end, but it’s not failure, it’s information. As we tracked the lions, understanding where they weren’t helped to narrow down the area where they were. It works the same for you – learning what doesn’t inspire you helps you move closer to what does.
Keep following your hot tracks. Do not give up! Perseverance is key. As we followed the lion tracks, it seemed to me like we were going in circles. But our ranger and tracker were all in, moving forward until tracks went cold, backtracking, studying the landscape, eliminating options, making educated guesses and putting all the pieces together. It was masterful.
The process often doesn’t make sense going forward. Your mind is probably going to freak out, berating you by saying something like you should be taking a course in advanced project management (HR will pay for it!), when what excites you is learning origami.
Origami??? What’s the point in learning origami?
Because it feels like your next hot track. That’s all you need to know to move ahead.
It’s only after you take a step forward that the next step becomes clear. And it’s only after you’ve gone down the path a ways that you can look back and see how one step led to the next and the next. In hindsight, it makes sense.
Stay open to the different forms that hot tracks can take. When we were tracking the lions, it wasn’t just prints in the dirt that led us to the pride. As we were getting closer, our ranger noticed a bateleur eagle soaring in circles ahead of us. Bateleurs scavenge on carcasses killed by other animals. Had this one found a potential meal, compliments of the pride? Led by the eagle, we continued on and came across a recently killed wildebeest – we were getting closer. And then, the pride of lions.
I can’t say what your hot tracks will look like, but they will appear. Maybe it’ll be a childhood memory? Someone you meet, or an itch to travel? Perhaps a movie or a song will hold a clue?
What I know for sure is you’ll know it when you feel it. Let your hot tracks show you the way.
"It’s like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." – E.L. Doctorow
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