Jeremy Côté


Walking in Circles

When we don’t have a reference object in our environment, it can be extremely difficult to navigate in a straight line. Somewhat surprisingly, research shows that people will generally end up walking in circles, despite being instructed to walk in a straight trajectory. Said differently: the participants thought they were walking in a straight line, even though they were quickly dissolving into circular patterns. The hypothesis for this tendency includes a lack of directional cues as a source of this difficulty to walk in a straight line.

Similarly, this kind of aimless wondering can happen in our lives as well. When we lack directional cues, such as goals, good habits, and regular reviews of our time, we can easily slip into a state of wandering without direction. Once stuck in that mode, it is difficult to get out, since we believe we’re moving in a certain direction.

Therefore, the only way to “exit” this circling is to reestablish some sort of directional cue. As stated above, this cue can come in many forms, but the crucial bit is that it is as objective as possible, allowing you to see your progress and your work from another perspective. The hope is that this perspective will allow you to reorient yourself and make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

When we don’t have those directional cues or “guideposts” to help us out on our journey, it can be difficult to say with certainty exactly where we are headed. In order to make sure we are doing what needs to be done, it helps to have those guideposts to signal we are on the right path.

Walking in circles is akin to uselessly wasting our time when we could be using it to do more work, and so the key becomes finding those guideposts, and making sure they are always within sight.