What's your true north in 2017?
If you want to get from a point at the bottom of a map to one at the top, you need to head true north. This doesn’t just apply to navigating hikes it is equally true when navigating life. Interestingly if you navigate by magnetic north (the direction a compass points toward the magnetic north pole) you might find yourself in another destination entirely. In life, magnetic north is created from the strong pull of other people’s expectations and society’s version of what success looks like.
Elle Luna, the author of The Crossroads of Should and Must describes it as “how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do.” In contrast, true north is the core of who you are and what is most important to you right now. It's the thing that your heart will regret if you look back a year from now and it hasn't happened. Maybe it is finally starting your own business, or taking a trip with an aging parent or developing the skill that you need to get promoted. This year instead of making resolutions about what you won’t do in 2017 – eating too much, responding to emails at the dinner table, buying things you don't need from mobile shopping apps (OK I might still need some work on that one) – decide on the one thing that you would regret not doing and put that first. For me true north in 2017 is having the time and flexibility to spend with my son before he heads to college. We have planned a 6-week camping trip through the Western National Parks this summer. Just the three of us, our 1967 Shasta trailer, good books and a chance to be awestruck by God’s glorious creation. I am pretty sure this is the last time I can make this happen.
Friends tell me you can get adult kids to go on vacation with you, but only if it is something like a week in Hawaii. What is interesting is that once you acknowledge your true north other decisions fall into place. For example, if I am taking 6 weeks off this summer it doesn't make sense to consider full time work right now. It's a little scary – will I lose my relevance, will I have to pass up opportunities that may not come back my way, will my savings be depleted in a way that gets uncomfortable? Maybe. But my heart tells me that it is worth the risk. That is the essence of true north – it is what your heart knows is certain. In the next few days find a quiet, beautiful place, grab a notebook and some colored pencils, project yourself forward a year and think back to what one accomplishment would feel you with joy if it happened in 2017. What is it that you will put first? What is it that will guide your decisions and be worth the inevitable trade-offs? Write it down and keep it someplace where you see it every day. Magnetic north is seductive. If we don't make a conscious decision about what is true for us we can easily get caught in its force. True north isn’t hard to discover; we know it deep within our souls. What takes courage is to follow where it leads. May you have that courage and the joy that it brings in the year ahead.
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