I feel like I need to start this with a disclaimer. I don't have all the answers to the questions I'm going to pose to you below. I don't always feel like I'm on the right path to finding my own true north. I'm a work in progress, like everyone on this swiftly tilting planet, and I'm always looking for new insights and processes to uncover new things.
As I'm using the phrase here, true north is your life's purpose. It sounds heavy and big and a little vague, but it should be. Just like the polar north, shifting bit by bit but generally the same direction, so does our path and journey toward whatever we're heading towards shift and ebb and change. But true north is something that we usually need to uncover.
In this piece from Stephen Turban, he uses information from Bill George to help readers determine a path their true north.
5 Steps to Your True North
Create your narrative identity
What's your favorite story? What elements make it so? I bet there are intriguing characters, plot points that come together well, and a satisfying ending. When it comes to your life story, what are the plot points coming together to create a narrative for yourself? As cited in the piece above, creating a narrative identity leads to better mental health, well-being and maturity. If you don't already, journaling can be a great way to see these threads come together.
Let yourself feel failure
When faced with failure, it can be telling how people deal with it. Do you confront it head on? Or ignore it, pretend it didn't happen, and simply step around it like a pile of dog poo on the sidewalk? How we react to--and learn from--failure has a mega impact on our true north. When faced with something truly disappointing or feeling like a failure... Divorce, infertility, career struggles, etc ... use it to transform your life. Learning from loss leads to post traumatic growth, which is key to helping you be able to put your life into perspective.
Accept--and seek out--feedback
Looking in the mirror, you might do a few things. Sometimes we over emphasize our good qualities. Other times, it might feel like all we see are the things we dislike about ourselves. The truth? We're somewhere in the middle, and it takes a third party to help us understand this other part of our identity, how others see us. Authenticity stems from our ability to take feedback, consolidate with our own ideas and actions, and create the self we know we want to be.
Engage in self-reflection
Journaling is one tool to work on this step toward true north, but others include meditation, a run or workout to clear the mind, whatever. The activity itself isn't the important part. It's taking time to reflect on your day and see how it aligns with your true north and your personal narrative. It's easy to act in ways that aren't pleasant, and ignore how it affects other areas. This forces you to sit with your actions, pleasant and otherwise.
Journey from *I* to *We*
Real purpose is more than just ourselves, our achievements and impacts. It's about a collective impact, a collective purpose. Realizing that you're not an island leads to living a life with more meaning, satisfaction, and psychological support from the community you're a part of. It might sound strange, that reaching out to others is so integral to finding our own life purpose and true north. But as we interact with people, we see the humanity in them, and therein find our own.
What steps have you taken toward your own true north?