Finding Your Own North Star will teach you how to read your internal compasses, articulate your core desires, identify and repair the unconscious beliefs that may be blocking your progress, nurture your intuition, and cultivate your dreams from the first magical flicker of an idea through the planning and implementation of a more satisfying life.
I base all my counseling on the premise that each of us has these two sides: the essential self and the social self.
The essential self contains several sophisticated compasses that continuously point toward your North Star. The social self is the set of skills that actually carry you toward this goal. Your essential self wants passionately to become a doctor; the social self struggles through organic chemistry and applies to medical school. Your essential self yearns for the freedom of nature; your social self buys the right backpacking equipment. Your essential self falls in love; your social self watches to make sure the feeling is reciprocal before allowing you to stand underneath your beloved’s window singing serenades.
This system functions beautifully as long as the social and essential selves are communicating freely with each other and working in perfect synchrony. However, not many people are lucky enough to experience such inner harmony. For reasons we’ll discuss in a moment, the vast majority of us put other people in charge of charting our course through life. We never even consult our own navigational equipment; instead, we steer our lives according to the instructions of people who have no idea how to find our North Stars. Naturally, they end up sending us off course. If your feelings about life in general are fraught with discontent, anxiety, frustration, anger, boredom, numbness, or despair, your social and essential selves are not in sync. Life design is the process of reconnecting them.
Reconnecting: How your essential self says no
When you leave your true path and start heading away from your North Star, your essential self will use any or all of its skills and tools to stop you. If your social self won’t pay attention to mild warnings, the essential self has to get more and more dramatic. As a last resort, your core self will simply hijack the controls you use to direct your own behavior.
You may be blithely oblivious to your own discontent until the very moment you find yourself weeping at a business luncheon, or punching your son’s first-grade teacher. Fortunately, you can avoid such unpleasant situations if you learn just one word in your essential self’s nonverbal lexicon: NO.
Emotional Course Charting
Once you’ve determined which of the four basic emotions you’re feeling, this chart will give you a basic idea what you can do about it.
Function: Protects from danger
Dangerous fakes: False fear may show up when the real emotion is something upsetting to the social self–especially anger.
Recheck your compass if: Your fear shows up as generalized anxiety or worry and doesn’t lead to clear action.
Think it through: Identify the thing that’s scaring you. Investigate to see if your fears are well-grounded.
Healthy reactions to the real thing: 1. Run for danger 2. Face your fear
You will be tempted to: Run from your heart’s desire
To go on, you must give up: The illusion of dependency.
If you go on, you will gain: Courage and confidence
Function: Heals, strengthens
Dangerous fakes: False grief including depression, is usually a screen for anger. It is most common in women.
Recheck your compass if: You feel utterly helpless or hopeless or lose the ability to experience pleasure.
Think it through: Identify what it is you have lost. Acknowledge your right to grieve that loss.
Healthy reactions to the real thing: 1. Replace what is lost 2. Mourn what is lost
You will be tempted to: Deny your pain
To go on, you must give up: The illusion of permanence.
If you go on, you will gain: Empathy, wisdom, and resilience.
Function: Corrects injustice.
Dangerous fakes: False anger often appears to hide the real emotion of grief, particularly in men.
Recheck your compass if: You find yourself lashing out at people (including strangers) than don’t deserve it.
Think it through: Identify what you need that you aren’t getting, or what is present that you can’t tolerate.
Healthy reactions to the real thing: 1. Change yourself 2. Change your situation
You will be tempted to: Resist change
To go on, you must give up: The illusion of helplessness.
If you go on, you will gain: Gentleness and power.
Function: Nurture expands
Dangerous fakes: False joy is euphoria that doesn’t last, such as chemical or behavioral addiction or mania.
Recheck your compass if: You experience giddiness or a high that is followed by an emotional crash, leaving you worse off than ever.
Think it through: Identify the real source of your happiness. Express gratitude.
Healthy reactions to the real thing: 1. Enjoy 2. Share
You will be tempted to: Either cling to joy or push it away
To go on, you must give up: Suffering
If you go on, you will gain: Everything your heart desires; your own North Star