Wouldn’t it be nice if life always presented you with two clean choices and all you had to do was pick the one that felt right? That you could make all your life choices with conviction because the options presented were either a ‘HECK yeah!’ or a ‘hell no!’
Many entrepreneurs, business experts, and leaders will tell you that when making big life decisions, the right choice should jump out at you.
But rarely is it that cut and dry. You have to think about how your decision will affect those around you and how it will affect you in the present and in the future. We have to account for finances, relationships, commitments, our own well-being, and that of others.
Most of us don’t have the privilege, for instance, to just quit our job with benefits on a whim to become a wildlife photographer in Africa. Usually, there are kids to feed or a spouse, parent, or others to support. Or we have student debt to pay off or health needs that require ridiculously expensive health insurance.
The point is, life is never simple and the answer is almost never ‘Hell yes!’ or ‘HECK no!’ So why do we keep getting encouraged to use those metrics for decision-making?
Finding Your North Star
For most of us, making life decisions based on a gut response (‘Yes! I’m all in!’ Or ‘There’s no way in hell you could pay me to do that!) is an unrealistic luxury. Most of us are simply in Holy Hell mode, dealing with one emergency after the other.
Our lives are too complicated to just trust our gut instincts. (Do we even have those anymore?) We’re inundated non-stop with stress and running on the sheer will of our adrenals. When your life is constantly in ‘holy hell mode,’ e.g. you feel like you’re struggling to just put one foot in the front of the other or your life is pulling you in a million different directions, it can feel impossible to figure out which choices are even pleasurable. It’s just “go” mode, 24/7.
My suggestion is to create a North Star for yourself, a long-range goal that guides you forward. You may not know how long it’ll take you to get there, but you’re committed to trying no matter what. So, if your dream is to be a photographer in Africa, maybe, just maybe you can actually get there.
For the last decade, I’ve been plowing through my daily responsibilities, and at the same time aligning and re-aligning my life to make things work. I just kept taking it one day, or even just one step, at a time. No matter how hard it got, I always kept sight of my North Star, and that made all the difference.
Your North Star is that big dream that keeps you going.
It’s that lofty goal that will make it all worth it.
For me, my North Star was completing my MBA, and I can happily report I finally did it! So just how committed was I to that North Star? Well, it took me 17 years of college to finally graduate with a master’s —17 years! But I kept going … one step at a time. One class, one homework assignment, one gets up out of bed and put my foot down, each and every day for 17 years.
Now that I’ve achieved that (woohoo!), I’m in the process of realigning myself to follow my next North Star. It’s not a fully developed idea, but it’s starting to take shape in the form of building a water temple in the Canadian Rockies. It may sound like a crazy, far-fetched idea, but who cares! It could take years to achieve, I might be 75 when I get it done, but I know that in my lifetime I want to honor water the same way the Tibetans do.
Does this mean I can go right now, drop everything and do this? No, it may take me a decade to even save up the money to afford a piece of land in the Rockies with a water source, let alone understand how to build a temple around it. And that doesn’t include all of life’s other crazy surprises that will come along the way … but I’ll keep plugging along until I reach my goal.
You see, your North Star can be something that may at first seem completely out of reach. But then you just take it one day at a time and slowly put the pieces together until you reach that far-off destination.
What’s the North Star that’s guiding your life?
Maybe you’re a bank teller and you want to be the mayor of your town. You might be thinking, ‘How on earth do I go about achieving that? I’m no one, I have no experience with such things.’ My advice? Set your sights on your North Star and go for it!
Go to city council meetings, talk to other mayors who may prove to be valuable mentors or sponsors, research what skills are required of a mayor in your town, and work on attaining or improving those skills. As you work your 9-5, take care of your kids, and make countless dinners, always keep your plan in sight.
It’s this North Star, your big dream, that will help you get closer to answering your sacred question and figuring out what your purpose is on this earth.
Anyone can have a North Star
It doesn’t matter where you live or what your life circumstances are—you don’t have to come from a place of privilege to have a North Star.
Malala Yousafzai is an inspiring example of how an oppressed woman in Pakistan was able to follow and reach her dreams.
You probably know Malala’s story: She defied the Taliban as a young girl and openly advocated for a woman’s right to an education. Her North Star was so far out of reach at the time, that she was shot in the head for even speaking her dream out loud. She miraculously survived and received the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to women’s education in Pakistan. She has inspired others throughout the world to take a stand for women’s rights, even though when she first began pursuing her dream it put her very life in danger.
Your North Star doesn’t need to have a worldwide impact but it does need to be something you care passionately about. It should be something that drives you forward and motivates you to keep slogging through the rough parts of life that sometimes try to pull us off course from the things that really matter.
The answer may not always be cut and dry but having an aspirational goal can help direct your decision. If I say yes to this opportunity, will it bring me closer to my North Star or will it divert me from my path? It’s the internal compass that keeps you in alignment with your personal values and keeps you on the path towards answering your sacred question.
I’d love to hear from you …
So, what’s your North Star? What dream are you currently pursuing and how close are you to reaching it? What obstacles are in your way? I hope you’ll share your story in the comments. As always, I’d love to hear from you and continue the conversation.