This article was originally published on the Huffington Post.
I love old maps. When I was a kid, we had a print of an old map on the wall of the upstairs landing. It was one of those ones where the globe is split into two circles, with each half containing within it the continents and landmasses on either side of the world. I enjoyed looking at the illustrations of the weird and wonderful creatures that the cartographer had drawn rising from the depths of the oceans or looming ominously across distant lands.
Hic sunt dracones. “Here be dragons.”
Although there are only two historical incidences of this phrase recorded as having been found on maps, the term has become synonymous with the idea that dangers lurk in unchartered waters. A warning for fishermen and travellers of the places to avoid in order to remain safe.
A natural alarm system
If we stray away from the ‘safe’ path in life, our subconscious will flag up that there be dragons nearby. It uses the warning to steer us away from setting a path towards something that it fears may be a threat to our survival. Sometimes, without even being aware of it, we unquestioningly listen to that warning, in the same way that fisherman and travellers would have looked at the razor-sharp toothed sea serpents depicted on their maps and sailed instead in safer waters.
That’s the job of our subconscious, you see. To keep us safe. Pretty much every action and behaviour we find ourselves undertaking has been carefully considered by the subconscious for its potential to threaten our lives. It takes the information that it has gathered about the world in the years that we’ve lived up until now, and plots the safest course to the end of our lives, with little regard for our happiness or fulfilment.
A different perspective
What it doesn’t see, is that while there may be dragons in the uncharted territory, so might there be lands filled with riches and opportunities. For the brave and the bold, those riches and opportunities are there for the taking, and with the right resources the dragons are there to be slain.
So whatever your endeavour, whatever your goal, whatever the dream that lies beyond your comfort zone, step boldly towards it. Arm yourself with the tools you need to slay the dragons. Arm yourself with self-belief, pack courage and resilience in your pockets (if those don’t seem to be available to you right now, seek the help of a good coach or therapist). And as you take your first tentative steps into the unknown, when you hear the alarm bells ringing (and ring they will), remind yourself that in the uncharted territory beyond the familiar, here be growth. In exploring the boundaries of what you once thought was possible, here be potential. And in growth and potential hic vita est. Here be life.