Finding North


Success is a very nebulous concept.  It can be many things and what it means for an individual can change over time.  When you are young and ambitious it may mean a corner office, six figures, or buying a house. Over time and with changing circumstances, it can shift to something less tangible like peace, a meaningful relationship or good health.  The thing is…we can easily get lost or caught up in the rat race and need to find our north.  We need a compass to help line up our actions with something steady and sure.

In business, Karl Stark and Bill Stewart define “true north” as the one objective which provides the foundation for all decision making.  Its the governing principle that helps when you come to that fork in the road.  Well we need the same as individuals because otherwise its easy to get tossed in the wind or to let larger forces (like corporations) dictate what’s important to you.

Finding your “north” requires some think time.  Its helpful to sit down by yourself or with your life partner and really assess where you’re going before you get to that infamous fork in the road.   If you’re going nowhere, it doesn’t matter whether you get there.   However, if you want to get someplace, its helpful to have a map to guide you along the way.   Creating your personal roadmap to success or “north”  involves asking yourself some important questions to define your  Values, Vision, Purpose, Goals and a Strategy to get there.

First its important to define your values. What are 3-5 things that define what you stand for and if necessary die for? These things don’t change very often, but they are important to helping you focus on whats important for you and your family. One of my clients said it was finding your “North” so that you can’t get lost along the way. Your values provide a compass for living and they should be assessed periodically relative to your life for consistency. When your living isn’t aligned with your values it will show up in stress, unhappiness, and disorientation.

Creating a vision for your future is also important. What do you really want? Begin to imagine the future in graphic detail without any constraints. Learn to dream in color and capture a picture within key areas of your life (e.g. what you want for your family, work, friendships, education, home,etc.). Make a vision board to remind you of your dreams and places you want to travel or live with pictures from magazines or use Pinterest.  Visual reminders of your dreams will inspire you when times get tough.

Commit to a specific purpose for getting up everyday. What is it that keeps you going? What are you living for? Making a statement of purpose is a very powerful tool for motivating your head, heart and hands toward action each day. Having purpose or meaning is one of the six specific immutable human needs according to research. We all want our lives to have value and we can create that meaning for ourselves.  All of life’s detours and disappointments can be viewed differently through a lens of purpose.

Now what are your goals?  How will you demonstrate progress? What are key milestones that will help you realize your vision and purpose? When would you like to achieve them.  SMART goals will ensure you are are intentional about success.  They should be very specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

Developing a strategy is simply defining how you will get from here to there.  Consider what resources you need? What constraints do you have?  Anticipate problems and challenges then develop a plan of action to address all possibilities.  A journey begins will a simple step.  If its to hard to see all the way to the end, just figure out what to do first.

This is all hard work.  The good news is that you don’t generally change your values, vision, and purpose often.  You may refine them but this is foundational stuff.  This is your North.  The goals and strategy are just tools for the journey.  Finding your north will help you define success on your own terms.

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