GPS or Compass?

Formal education tends to behave like a GPS giving learners step-by-step instructions for a well-defined world. This GPS approach worked well in the 19th and 20th centuries when stockpiling knowledge in a domain, in the form of a University degree, usually assured lifelong employment because the rate of knowledge accumulation in most domains was not very high.

In the 21st century, knowledge is exploding and the terrain is changing every minute. Most employment or entrepreneurship depends on three things – muscle power, mental prowess, or dexterity. The industrial revolution led to machines replacing human muscle; today nano-machines are replacing human dexterity and artificial intelligence is replacing or augmenting human cognition. Chances are that learners today will switch several careers in their lifetime and formal education at best prepares them for their first career.

When unchartered waters lie ahead no GPS can help. Learners need an inner compass.

By inner compass, I don’t mean  a moral compass but a compass that helps learners figure out for themselves how to make their lives purposeful and joyful. An inner compass helps learners stay ‘on purpose’. Peter McWilliams explains in his book Life 101, “A goal is something that can be reached. A purpose is a direction, like east. No matter how far east you travel, there’s still lots more east to go. A purpose is never achieved; it is fulfilled in each moment you are on purpose.”

The inner compass behaves much like the Golden Compass in Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials. It can point out the clues to the most profound life questions. It can help light the three life-valves, “To-Be, To-Do and To-Have” in that right sequence.

Having set a broad life trajectory the inner compass can help learners  figure out: What is Worth Learning? – life-worthy knowledge, timeless life skills and right dispositions (qualities of the mind) that will keep them ‘on purpose’.

An inner compass helps learners find their True North.