Finding My North Star: The Biggest Question We Face!
"... the power of finding the answer to this gives us energy and direction. It can bring us happiness and inner contentedness. It helps us to believe that what we’re doing will make a difference in life to ourselves and others."
Dear Little Owl,
There’s something bright in the sky tonight. In fact, it’s there every night. Some nights it’s covered with clouds, so it can’t be seen, and during the day it’s far too light to see it. But I know it’s always there, because when it’s dark and the sky is clear you can’t miss it, despite its size, it’s brighter than everything else in the sky, it’s a constant and is always there to guide me, to keep me heading in the right direction. It’s my own north star!
So, I’ve been pondering over this “big” question for a while now. It’s strange how at certain points in life I always keep coming back to this question, hoping I’ll gain some perspective, New Year’s Eve, a significant birthday, hearing someone else’s powerful story in life, going away on a holiday, or any big shift in my own life circumstances.
So, what is this question?
What is my purpose my life?
I know it’s a pretty big question! Which can sound pretty full on and dramatic, being able to articulate what guides you and what you stand for, but it’s a question I think we all have built into us and one that deserves our attention. Why? Well I suppose the power of finding the answer to this gives us energy and direction. It can bring us happiness and inner contentedness. It helps us to believe that what we’re doing will make a difference in life to ourselves and others. I kinda of think it’s an essential part of all our journey, it gives us control of the direction we want to take, rather than letting life just happen to us, because life will happen to us and at a crazy pace too. I have also seen what can happen when someone loses sight of their own North Star. When they can no longer see or feel a meaning, or purpose to carry on. When the clouds become so heavy they just stop searching, stop moving, stop living.
For my part when I look back I’ve been trying to grasp my own answer to this probably since my late 20’s for no particular reason I can think of, other than, what I was doing was never entirely fulfilling. I’d have these moments of inspiration, joy and excitement but then they would fade, and I’d feel stuck, get bored or frustrated with the job or point I was at in life, feeling that I wasn’t making a big enough difference or hitting my true potential. I felt I didn’t understand my true identity. Fortunately, a lot has been written and spoken about this topic (In fact even “Step 2” of the 12 step programme says: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”). Even more so over the last 10 years. Some may say this was fate on my behalf others may not, but I stumbled across some pretty helpful influencers on this subject who were all saying a similar thing about the importance of finding your purpose. Some called it, “Finding Your Why”, others your “Life Force Statement”, others your “Personal Philosophy” and others your “North Star” - one I particularly like.
“Words rarely do justice to what we actually experience.”
When we think of some of our biggest influencers in life one common theme is that they all had a clear sense of purpose that drove them through the good times as well as the bad. It’s the reason we are inspired by them (or not). Whether it was Martin Luther King trying to create a world where everyone is equal, or Oprah helping people to avoid suffering and thrive in life, to the Delilah Lama helping to create a world where kindness and compassion rule.
What makes it challenging is that you are trying to attach words to a deep routed feeling, which are two completely separate experiences. Words rarely do justice to what we actually experience. My first few attempts at writing it felt a bit clunky, too academic. When I would say it out loud to others, although part of it felt ok, some of it didn’t feel truly authentic enough. Finally, someone said to me, “have you considered that in your search for your own purpose, you may actually be living it”. Bear with me. When this was said to me I started to look at all the things I do when I feel most inspired, all the people that inspire me most, all the books I read, all the programmes I watch, the events I go too, all the things in life that light me up inside. The lighting up inside is a big clue for me that I’m on the right path. I finally recognised a thread. It’s the reason I’m writing this letter, it’s the reason I started the Little Owl, it’s the reason why I’m trying to be the best dad, husband son and friend I can be. My own North Star:
“To find out how to make the most of this life and share it with the people I care about most.”
Or the shortened version:
“Best Me! Best You!”
There are many ways to help with this journey of discovery and these are some suggestions that set me on my way. I didn’t get it right first time so it’s good to understand that before attempting it. I’ve written around 10-12 serious attempts of my own over the last 4 years before landing on one that feels right. For me they key was understanding what inspires me most in life and why, what answers am I trying to find the answers too, and when am I at my best. Now I personally found it easier to put some gentle inspiring music on (without lyrics) classic piano is my favourite but some may prefer without.
The Dinner Party of All Dinner Parties: Think about who inspires you in life. Now imagine you were having a dinner party where you could invite anyone you like. Who would you invite? As you sit at the head of the table looking around at your guests, write down why each guest around you inspire you. What is it they do? What have they achieved, said or written that inspires you? How have they done what they have done? What do you get from them?
My last day here: Imagine it’s your last day on this earth - (I know pretty dark but hang on) All the people you care about most, including your dinner guests are gathered around, then the most influential one stands up on behalf of the group, what would you like them to say about you? About the difference you’ve made in life? About who you are? About what you have done?
Top 10: If you had to think of 10 words or phrases that describe you at your best what would they be? Focus on writing this for yourself, not for approval by someone else. As you’re doing this, suspend judgement and explore all parts of you. Would your friends and family agree?
Searching for Themes: OK now you have completed all of the above, look at what you have written and highlight similar themes. What I mean by themes are similar words or phrases you have used. When you say them to yourself they should stir a reaction inside, light you up, excite you. Highlight the most important ones, at least 10
Finding your North Star: Now cut this list down to 5 phrases or words, try to put them into a sentence or phrase capturing why you are here. How will you light up the sky? You could start with, “the reason I’m here is to …”
Tweaking it: If it sounds clunky and uncomfortable that’s fine and quite natural. Keep tweaking it and playing around with it until it feels right. What is your favourite word? If someone asks you today what your North Star is could you answer without thinking. The first few times you attempt to write it down, it’s common to have too many or too few words. Find words and phrases that describe the principles that guide your thoughts, your words and your actions.
What have I learnt about this journey of discovery:
Don’t give up, keep working at it, like most things in life the things that are hardest are the most rewarding. Nothing worth having in life came easy.
My North Star is a destination I will never completely arrive at, so find peace in that
Tune into when I light up inside, it’s sign I’m on the right path
Share it with people around me to see if they think it captures who I am at my best
Try to get it down to a short sentence or short phrase that I can repeat in the most stressful of situations
My North Star may be simple and only a few words, but there is a story that backs it up
The beauty of finding my North Star is that no one can do it for me, and no one can take it away from me.
My North Star is a great way to meet and connect with likeminded people. People who care about what I care about
Revisit my North Star daily (I have a photo of it on my phone) it helps me refine it and also help me live it!
Take actions that reflect this
I hope others in need will take the time to find their own North Star. It’s worth it! For me, I also think there is another reason that my own North Star shines as brightly as it does, and that’s because I think somehow it is tied to you Little Owl. In a strange way since you’ve been gone that star has been shining even brighter, it has given me answers that I’ve been looking for, for a long, long time and the harder I work towards it, the brighter it shines. Thank you!
Take care, I’ll write again soon