Walk In Your Own Maze

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In today’s episode, inspired by music lyrics, I’ll tell you about the importance of mazes in our life, a funny story of taking a kiddo in a wheelchair through an outdoor maze, how it taught me a lot about goals and how we can learn to be even better at getting out of mazes.

There are many tools that help us learn to live a good life. Some are more obvious, but others are a bit hidden. I find song lyrics is one of those sneaky tools that can teach us a lot about life. Pay attention to the words from great songwriters and see what they mean to you. You’ll have no choice but to reflect and think from time to time.

Within 24 hours I heard two songs that used lines about mazes, John Mayer’s, Daughters: “just like a maze, where all of the walls all continually change”. And Mac Miller’s Ladders: “Maybe we inside the maze, somehow we gotta find a way, no matter how many miles it takes”

This really reminded me that life goals are an evolving maze for all of us. Not too many variables tend to stay the same. These changes and ever-evolving challenges don’t need to be stressful. A maze can be a lot of fun if we treat it like a game the way we do as kids.

Mazes Are Fun For Kids

As kids, we love dragging a finger through the maze in a book, or placemat. It’s fun to trace a pencil into one wall and then another until we find a way to whatever the “end goal” is. I worked previously as a support staff for a little girl without legs and I remember we took a group to park that had massive, record setting, natural mazes designed from bushes and corn.

Everyone advised I not push the wheelchair in, but she wanted to go so badly that I decided to give it a go. Now there are so many lessons there about resilience, vulnerability, shame and failure, but let’s stick to the maze concept. Once we got about two minutes in I realized a. the ground was a lot more wet in the actual maze than outside and b. we were actually lost. Now she was a smart kiddo, but she was about seven and confined to the chair that I was pushing.

While this story would take probably 45 minutes to tell in real time, I’ll summarize by saying finding our way out pushed us beyond our comfort zone into an optimal amount for actual growth. It took a long time and we grew frustrated, regrouped, stayed calm and continued on. Eventually the wheels got so stuck in mud that she had to hop out and swing by her arms for the rest of the maze. Tough little girl is an understatement. I had to be tough too.

She had a premium, heavy duty chair, not some pop up stroller that I carried, sometimes overhead, for the remainder of our challenge. The short version is that through all of the twists and turns, and the ups and downs, we made it out. Now I can’t speak for her, but judging by all of the laughter, the hugs once we got out, and the smiles when she told the story to her parents, I think it’s safe to say it was well worth it. 

It is valuable to keep in mind when it comes to goals and big dreams that the maze will be difficult sometimes, and easier at other time. As we work toward owning our dreams there will be many things outside of our control. What we can control is that we continue to try. We continue to pivot and work our way toward the end of the maze. And if we start to get frustrated, impatient, feel sorry for ourselves, or panic things will only get worse, maybe we’ll never actually get out, which is why we need systems to fall back on.

Beat A Complex Maze

Did you know there are actually techniques for getting out of a maze? The most commonly shared is wall following. You place a hand along one of the walls and run that hand along that wall randomly following paths until you get out. This can work if there is only straight forward, paths connecting to paths with no bridges, tunnels, short cuts, or circle loops. If you tried this with a loop, well safe to say you would go in circles. The other reason the wall following method will fail to work is if your starting, or finishing point are in the centre of the maze.

Well, when it comes to the maze of ambitions, dreams and goals, no doubt it starts and ends right smack in the middle. It starts within us and it ends within us. A far more frustrating maze. So what do we do when mazes are more challenging? When they contain a ton of bridges, tunnels, shortcuts and loops?  The best method I know of is like the opposite of Pacman. Instead of gobbling raisins, you drop em.

For this, we can turn to Trémaux’s algorithm.

Tremaux’s Algorithm

In Trémaux’s algorithm, you leave breadcrumbs, or marks on the floor to create a path. There is no guarantee it will be the fastest route, but it is guaranteed to work. Something we can parallel with pursuing our passions and achieving goals no doubt.

You know the saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me again, shame on me?” Well that’s a way to remember this system. You follow a path, leaving a trace. Every time you get to a junction you pick your next entrance based on these 3 rules:
1. If only the entrance you just came from is marked, pick an arbitrary unmarked entrance, if any. 

2. Pick the entrance you just came from, unless it is marked twice.

3. Pick any entrance with the fewest marks (zero if possible, or else one).

An entrance of a passage is either unvisited, marked once or marked twice. The algorithm works according to the following rules: This “turn around and return” concept effectively transforms any maze with loops into a simply connected one; whenever we find a path that would close a loop, we treat it as a dead end and return. Without this rule, it would be possible to cut off one’s access to still-unexplored parts of a maze if, instead of turning back, we arbitrarily pick another entrance.

The Maze Of Life

Now if you want to learn more about the actual math application, or understand this deeper from an actual, literal, getting out of a maze situation, then feel free to Google It. But I really want to point out that we use terms like a maze in lyrics because we connect with the concept.

We’ve all been there in some capacity, and our life goals are a perfect example. How can we go down various paths, leaving breadcrumbs, taking note and then pivoting until we figure it out, isn’t that what it’s all about?

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clarity, DreamBig, GoalSetting


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