• Sarah Hegland

Becoming a Wayfinder

I’m supposed to have something to say! That’s my job as a marketing and communications specialist, right? To help companies speak clearly and powerfully. Except I've noticed that sometimes silence can be more mighty than speech.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed about many marketing ‘experts’ during these last few pandemic months:

  • They’re talking a lot. It’s been surprising how many emails, videos, and podcasts I see coming out for a time period when things are changing so quickly.

  • They’re often speaking from a place of fear. They’re not necessarily speaking because they have something valuable to say; they’re speaking because they believe their survivalor the survival of their own company⏤depends it.

  • They’re uncomfortable with uncertainty. They’re paid to be the experts, after allknowing what they’re talking about is vital to their livelihoods. So they have to find ways to sound certain.

At the same time, I’m noticing how people I know are navigating during these times:

  • They’re finding their own creative solutions. One of my friends was surprised to discover how smoothly she’s been able to adapt her teaching work to these new realities, and how responsive her students have been. No marketing experts were needed to help her find her way.

  • They’re listening to their own intuition on what’s right for them. One friend said she was fed up with all the industry “leaders” telling her what she should do (her quotes). Instead she was finding that her own body knew what was right for her.

  • They’re focusing on what they can control and stepping back from the things they can’t. One of my client has a long ‘to-do’ list in his mind all day every day, and when the pandemic hit he quickly filtered his list to focus on things he was still able to work on. We ended up taking the time to write a bunch of informative articles for his website, and then getting his automated email system set up.

What’s the alternative to listening to the ‘experts’? Martha Beck talks about cultivating our inner wayfinder:

“A Wayfinder is someone who, in the midst of chaos, can access an inner compass that always points true north. In countless ancient cultures, Wayfinders plotted the course for their own lives and for others; they are coaches, teachers, healers, and guides.”

Wayfinders are good at tuning out the outer noise, quieting their minds, and listening to their own hearts and bodies to find new paths forward. They recognize that 98% of the ‘experts’ are basing their advice on what’s worked in the past instead of tuning in to the present moment. They’ve learned to be discerning about which media stories they pay attention to (the hopeful ones) and which they don’t (the despairing ones). Where others look for safety, wayfinders look for possibility. Where others see chaos, wayfinders see challenge.

How do we cultivate our inner wayfinder? Here’s what I encourage clients to do:

  • Understand the uniqueness of your own path. What works for other businesses won’t necessarily work for you. You have to discover your own next step. Don't try to plan things out too far in advance: just focus on the next logical step for the present moment.

  • Focus on your strengths, resourcefulness, and resilience. Stick with what’s still in your control, and hold on to your vision of success even when things look bleak.

  • Don’t underestimate the power of silence and breathing deeply. Instead of worrying about yourself or others, quietly wish everyone well. Witness your journey with compassion, offer yourself loving-kindness, and find ways to believe in yourself.

Plot twist: Your path might lead you to a marketing expert who turns out to be incredibly helpful to your work. I don't know what's right for you, but I know you'll find your way.

We all go through difficult times in life. Looking back on my own, I would never have chosen adversityand yet it made me far wiser, stronger, and more creative than I’d ever been before. That’s what I focus on for others: feeling compassion for their present experience and all the difficult emotions that come up, and at the same time trusting that great wisdom and strength will come out of these times. Onward, fellow wayfinders!