I’m Not Lost. I’m “Directionally Challenged”

Looking at me, you’d never guess that I have a disability.

Some people have an obvious disability.  Some people can’t walk the right way.  Some people can’t see to find their way.  Me, I don’t even know the way!  I have no sense of direction.  I am directionally disabled; or to be politically correct, “directionally challenged.”

OK.  Maybe being directionally challenged isn’t as bad as some other disabilities, but it is a disability for which the general public has no compassion.

There are no special classes in school for students who can’t find their way to the bathroom.  No guide dogs for the directionally impaired.  No. . . people make jokes about people like me. . .a person who gets lost.  They question the intelligence of the directionally challenged.  I’ve heard the snickers behind my back.  The whispered put downs, “she couldn’t find her way out of a paper bag.”  It hurts.  You cut me I bleed.  Just because I get lost doesn’t mean I’ve lost my mind.

If you are one of the fortunate people who can’t understand why some people seem to be perpetually lost, I beg you for compassion.  Although I have largely overcome my disability, I recall the most dramatic symptoms of directional impairment manifested themselves when I was driving:

I couldn’t remember how to drive somewhere until I had driven there at least 5 times.

I was completely unable to reverse driving directions.

I used to get left and right mixed up.   I often pondered the meaning of statements such as “on the left side of the house,” wondering which left is meant.

Parking at shopping malls will strike terror into the heart of the directionally disabled.

I didn’t just park the car, I abandoned it.   For a while, Mall Security at the Mall of America was on a first name basis with me, because they had to help me find my car so many times.

In fact, one time at Ridgedale Mall, I actually called the cops because I thought someone had stolen my car.  It turns out I had parked in a different lot.

Does any of this sound familiar?  What can be done?  How can the “lost be saved?”

Well, prayer can’t hurt!  Jesus  called himself “the Way.”  But, if you are directionally challenged, you need some practical advice.  The 3 keys are:  Careful Planning, continuous practice and creative . . .lying.  Not lying to other people. . .that would be wrong, but lying to yourself. . .a little self-delusion can be healthy.  Saying things like,  “I’m not lost,  I’m just taking the scenic route.”

The first key is careful planning.

Google Maps!  I use Google Maps obsessively and I save maps to everywhere I might go again soon—I keep a folder in my car.

I may  eventually get a GPS device, but I have something even better—my cell phone!  A family member or friend can be an invaluable personal navigator.  One time our son was driving for the first time from Elk River to Rogers and ended up in Downtown Minneapolis—I guess the disability is genetic.  But my husband was able to go online to Google maps and give him directions home—during rush hour!

Always carry note paper–I’ve learned to never park a car without making detailed notes about where I left it. If all else fails you can use the Hansel and Gretel method– tear up the paper into little pieces and leave a trail.  Sure the paper may blow away, but chances are the mall police will have been notified of your strange behavior and will help you find your car.

Whenever possible, let someone else drive or lead the way.  Then if you get lost, it is somebody else’s fault–you can just claim you weren’t paying attention.

The second Key for directional success is practice.

Get a job or hobby which requires you to drive a lot.  In the past year, I have had 3 different assignments with the Census Bureau (including one currently which has kept me from blogging recently) , all of which involved using maps and finding locations.    The best part of the job is that the Census Bureau pays for all mileage and the time I spend driving.  So, now I get paid to be lost!  Your tax dollars at work.

Finally the third key is a little healthy self-delusion—really just changing your attitude. Enjoy the journey!  Accept that you may not end up where you planned—you might end up somewhere even better!

Diane’s website


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

5 Responses to I’m Not Lost. I’m “Directionally Challenged”

  1. Pingback: Top Hits: My 2010 Wordpress Stats Summary « Small Talk, Big Results

  2. I’ve been using a phone with GPS navigation for a while since I wrote this blog. My smart phone thinks I’m an idiot.

  3. sherie says:

    I am directionally challenged as well. I take after my dad. I get lost. I cant get to any place without my gps. None of my family and friends understand and think I am stupid, too. I try to tell people I am directionally challenged, but I just annoy friends when I call them to come and help me look for my care. Just the other day I had to call a taxi to help me drive around and look for my car. I called the police once to help me but they laughed at me. I would love to bring this into the light by telling our stories.

    • Thanks for sharing! One thing I do now to find my vehicle is to turn back and take pictures as I walk away, including turns. Then I can follow the “digital bread crumbs” back.

  4. Ahmad Alsagir says:

    Hello Diane (and everyone)
    I am “directionally challenged” too. I read many books to overcome this challenge, such as: “I’ll never get lost again” by “Linda Zitomer Grekin”, “the lost are of finding our way” by ” John Edward Huth”, Finding your way without map or compass” by “Harold Gatty”, “you’ll never get lost again” by “Robert R Singleton”….
    I found some useful tips. I recommend “you’ll never get lost again” by “Robert R Singleton” for it is concise and helpful and reader-friendly.

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