Why do I have such a horrible sense of direction? What can I do about it?
September 11, 2006 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Why do I have such a horrible sense of direction? What can I do about it?

For as long as I can remember I've had a really bad sense of direction. If somebody walks me along a route, I can't remember it even if it's fairly simple. I have no sense of which direction I'm facing in at any given time, unless of course I have familiar landmarks or I can see where the sun is. My friends say that they just instinctively *know* the directions relative to where they are at any given time. When I play FPS games I get hopelessly lost and have to have my wife navigate for me. Otherwise I'm a fairly intelligent, successful person, I work in information systems consulting and can handle all the requirements of the job except trying to get from my cubicle to another one in the same building, or driving to a meeting at some offsite location. It's really humiliating. Why am I like this? Are there other people like this, and what do you do to deal with it? Is there anything I can do to improve my 'directional abilities', if that's what you call it?
posted by mattholomew to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Read this previous thread.
posted by occhiblu at 6:08 PM on September 11, 2006

And also this one.
posted by occhiblu at 6:18 PM on September 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Interesting anglew ith the FPS stuff. I have a very strong sense of direction, but I'll get lost in FPS games. I finally figured out it was because I map everything out in terms of north, & when I don't know which direction something is, I 'fall back' to making a very detailed map in my mind, which I have trouble doing during a fast FPS game.

The best advice I can give you is to associate everything around you with a cardinal direction. If streets are in a grid, know which streets are N/S & which are E/W, and spend a LOT of time making sure you tell yourself, "going that way is NORTH, going that way is EAST," etc. People that have tried that have said that it helps with getting lost or being able to find your way around, it just takes a lot of processing power.

For what its worth, I can't understand directions in terms of a series of instructions, which is what everyone seems to give them in. I always have to say, "what intersection is it near," & from that I can figure out which direction I need to go. Also, on the flip side, people have told me to never give directions to anyone in my life.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:32 PM on September 11, 2006

I have a serious direction problem. I'll be at my LOCAL shopping centre, and, knowing exaclty where i want to go, turn the wrong way out of a shop. It is seriously that bad sometimes.

My dad *attempted* to cure my lack of direction when he taught me how to drive. It has worked to an extent. I already knew where things in sydney were, like east/west etc, but he MADE me learn the main roads and which other main roads run parallel to them, and most importantly, what direction they run in. It has worked, but only marginally. I can get TO the area, but once 'm there i'e got no hope of navigating a neighbourhood. It worked, but only because I can see the Sydney skyline from most places i frequent and hence always know where east is. I too believe that I am rather intelligent but I still have the problem. My mum is much the same. We've both learnt to rely on websites such as whereis.com.au to give us directions for places.
posted by cholly at 8:51 PM on September 11, 2006

Same problem here, and it is a bit of a handicap for Search and Rescue activities. I use a variety of techniques to compensate. I love maps, and use them to sort out my surroundings. Area familiarization with Google Earth is helpful. Make a note of prominent landmarks and use them to orient yourself. In a city I try to stay aware of compass heading and make a mental note each time I make a turn. Learn to orient using the North Star and the Sun.

If it is handicapping you at work, then a mapping GPS is clearly a worthwhile investment.
posted by Manjusri at 8:57 PM on September 11, 2006

Maps, maps, maps. Study maps of the world, country, city, your workplace. You're just going to have to do the hard work of building a mental model of the world you live in. People with a sense of direction do that and take subtle queues as mentioned like the time of day vs direction of the sun and also geography, which way the ground rises and falls, and all that to orient themselves. Note the word 'orient', from a European perspective it's related to knowing which way is east and aligning things accordingly. You're just going to have to focus and think more about it.
posted by scheptech at 9:30 PM on September 11, 2006

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