True North-Chapter 5: Life needs GPS

What does true north mean to you?

True north is a term used by mariners, hikers & outdoorsmen alike.  It is typically referenced when discussing the difference between magnetic north (the earth’s natural magnetic pull and its effect on a compass) and true north, which is the place you might be navigating toward (which typically varies a few degrees away from magnetic north) depending on where you are standing on our planet.  Yes, a compass will guide you to magnetic north, but finding true north creates the need for a little extra work.  That’s why I call these first 5 chapters (and the 5 that follow), my True North project.  It’s my recap of the efforts to find the true direction I believe I am to head in life and my ability to deal with the challenges that will inevitably be presented.  My writing project has helped me realize that I had never authentically set any personal bearing in life.  In short, I was a bit lost and over the last year every month that passed presented a more uncomfortable feeling.  There were times of frustration, sadness and some downright scary emotional places.  This exercise drove me to experience what some might call a depression of sorts, always questioning if what I was doing was the “right” thing, staying focused too heavily on what other people in my life were concerned with and all of this thinking and analyzing took a toll on my psyche.  In the end, though, it has taught me more than I could have hoped for. 

I have an “internal compass” of sorts and I believe you all have one too.  Some call it intuition or gut feelings, but I refer to it as true north because I recognize that part of life is learning how to get back on course when life naturally veers you off course.  I’m not trying to suggest that once you find your “path” in life that all will work out and you’ll waltz through this journey.  On the contrary, I’m learning that the nasty, frustrating and down right shitty parts of life are what make the rest of it so freaking beautiful.  I’m expecting to feel lost and as I’ve defined what true north means to me, so I’m beginning to feel more prepared with how to deal with challenges.  Learning along the way has been a tremendous exercise too and when I do experience challenges and push through them, life’s experiences are that much more rewarding.  I’ve also learned that If you don’t have an internal agreement with yourself regarding a mental place of balance, integrity, strength, passion and vision I believe you’ll continue to feel lost, so please spend some time each day and reflect on the areas of life that make you smile, that challenge you, that make you want to get out of the bed in the morning and these are your true north principles.

I was conditioned to believe that one can’t put his or her “passions” into life holistically.  I believed that you needed to have passion for work and then some different passion for family and then for working out, so as I defined my true north, I realized that I was inventing a way to meld my guiding principles into my daily life and instead of having to find different passions for different aspects of life, I’m taking my life’s passions and am applying them more regularly to living each day.  That subtle change is creating a positive ripple with work, parenting, marriage, etc. The performance and enjoyment of my career is simply a by-product of a decision to live more authentically around that over referenced “true north” set of principles.  When I set my principles (effort around being more compassionate, being a coach to those around me and having a calm demeanour with people I come in contact with daily), I felt better.  In late October of 2011 I began “flipping the tables” on my old thinking and have begun to live a truer north existence and my life is reaping the benefits.  I had been sitting and waiting for various aspects of my life to give me opportunity and I appreciate that while I wait, time passes and I don’t want to get caught standing still. 

I urge you to work to define your true north and when you realize that it isn’t a place; it is a set of personal values, interests and energy generating passions then you can begin to apply your principles to the various aspects of life and I think you’ll see a more engaging path.  Remember, the fun of life isn’t getting some where; it’s keeping your eyes wide open as you travel through it.


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