Finding Your North Star

“If I lose my direction, I have to look for the North Star, and I go to the north. That does not mean I expect to arrive at the North Star. I just want to go in that direction.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

When I meet with a client for the first time, I ask a set of questions to get a sense of where they are in their career and where they see themselves going next, or where they’d like to go. Among the questions I ask are:

  • What is your goal for your next role?
  • What are your passions? What gets you going in the morning?
  • In a sentence or two, what is it that you do well?

Often, folks are challenged to respond to these questions. Their goal for their next role may well be whatever is not their current role. Selling plumbing supplies at Home Depot sounds really good, simply because it’s so not what they’re struggling with in their current job.

They may have also lost sight of their passions. They’ve become so anesthetized in their current job that they really can’t recall what they are passionate about or what brought them there in the first place. And, as you may guess, they’re confused about their strengths and what they’re good at. In essence, they’ve lost their way.

Stella Polaris

I’ve been reading Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live. She notes that all cultures, throughout history, have idealized the qualities of truth, love, and joy, a condition she calls the “North Star.”

Because it appears in a fixed location in the night sky, explorers and mariners relied on the North Star – or Stella Polaris – to navigate in the absence of familiar landmarks. The North Star is a fixed point that can always be used to determine which way we are headed.

Beck maintains that the same relationship exists between our “right life” and us. It’s the ultimate realization of our happiness. She believes that knowledge of our perfect life sits inside us just as the North Star sits in its fixed spot. We may lose our way, but all we need to do is “wait for the clouds to clear,” and our destiny will shine brightly: “the fixed point in the constantly changing constellations of [our lives].”

Once we find our North Star it can keep us on course. But on cloudy nights, those times when we’ve become “acutely nearsighted” and lost in the fog, we need help finding it again. This is what a compass is for. Regardless of the direction we’ve taken, the compass needle points to the North Star.

Knowing our North Star and understanding our built-in compasses are necessary for reaching the lives and careers we’re meant to have.

By finding what we love best, by taking our true path to our own North Star, we’re in synch with an increasingly changing environment and add unique value to our every role.

So, a large part of answering those initial questions in my first meetings with clients begins the process of rediscovering their North Star.

How About You?

Do you know what your North Star is? Can you use your internal compass to keep you on track for your goals? Do those goals align with your North Star?


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