A maritime term, "boxing the compass" means naming all thirty-two points of a compass in clockwise order. Referencing the initials of cardinal and ordinal directions offers a shorthand so that sailors can navigate a heading (e.g., sail west, young woman!) without calculating exact degrees.
As with seafaring, so too with life. We all seek a compass to guide us. But we're never quite sure of our exact bearings--even in this age of GPS technology so many centuries after the invention of the compass rose. We strike out in one direction or another, often change course, and occasionally swerve wildly in the winds--while hoping and praying there isn't a freighter or pirate ship bearing down on us.
In the end, we may reach our destination. Or we may not. But as any number of self-help books declare, in often self-congratulatory prose, it's in our best interests to enjoy the journey. This is probably debatable, but such is life, right?
And so we box the compass...