Digging for Your Authentic Self: Charting Your North Star

Setting a long-term intention is like setting the compass of our heart. No matter how rough the storms, how difficult the terrain, even if we have to backtrack around obstacles, our direction is clear.” Jack Kornfield

If you prefer to listen

Identifying your true purpose or purposes helps you to live your life authentically. Living inauthentically sabotages you by draining your energy and limiting your beliefs. When you live authentically, you will feel lighthearted and joyful, full of energy, passion and excitement.

Last time we distinguished between what we were told was important and what really is essential. That helped us see where we may be out of alignment.  For me, I saw how ignoring my true self ate away at my sense of identity and purpose.  Often people’s biggest regret, when they are dying, is that they did not live true to themselves.  They lived to other people’s expectations, not really what truly mattered.

The problem is that we speed through life, not giving ourselves a chance to feel our hearts.  We don’t create space to truly see ourselves until the rug gets pulled out from under us. That is why we are taking the time to explore what our hearts say.

Pay attention to the inner sensibility; otherwise, you are adapting to the world as a chameleon to what others think you should be.” Dan Siegel

When you act as a chameleon, you exert a lot of energy trying to figure out wht others want you to be and then to be that person. You miss out on your potential for happiness and for being your best self. You don’t have to create your North Star, you just have to uncover it.  It is already there inside of you, with your inner wisdom and goodness.

Once you uncover your North Star, you will have a compass for your life. You will know whether you are on track. Not the track of success that society may have defined for you. The on track to becoming your best self.

The “track” of your life’s purpose also has a unique character. It often shows up as a sense of joy and lightness in the body (our minds are trained by culture to look for things like status and wealth, but our bodies aren’t so easily fooled). It may also appear as fascination, a strong desire to pay attention to certain topics or phenomena. More than anything, it’s a sense that what we’re doing is meaningful. Changing a diaper or pulling an all-nighter may not be fun, but when such things lie along the path of our life’s purpose, they always feel valuable.” Martha Beck

In my meditation teacher training, I was given the gift of space to honestly look at myself, set my heart’s direction, and how I wanted to live my life.  Something my authentic self could commit to regardless of external circumstances. It allowed me to see the things that I once thought critical were no longer important, but still a driving force in my life. I needed to re-define my North Star.

Some North Stars are lofty:
  • Michelle Obama is dedicated to solving the problem of childhood obesity.
  • Nelson Mandela wanted to liberate all people from the bondage of poverty, suffering, and discrimination.
Others are not so lofty:
  • I stand up for issues that I believe in, and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
  • I am determined to leave the world in a better state than it is now.
  • My purpose in life is making positive connections with others and enjoying those around me.
  • Squeezing every bit of enjoyment out of life. 
  • My purpose in life is to use my writing to better the world

Yours, like mine doesn’t have to be lofty. Mine is more internal than external. My overarching desire at this point in my life is belonging. I want to feel connected. I wrote this aspiration in 2018, and it still rings true today.

“Take off the mask of doing and knowing. Have the courage to open myself to uncertainty, suffering, and impermanence. In doing so, I will find true intimacy. Know that I have loving awareness in me that I can draw on.”

It is based on my purpose in life which is to grow in love and understanding.  Here are some of the aims I uncovered as I was digging for my authentic self:

  • Not miss out on my life by living in the past or future
  • Be able to be with and feel my feelings
  • Learn self-compassion so I have the strength and courage to be compassionate with boundaries
  • Learn there is an innate goodness/loving awareness in me that I can call on at any time
  • I can choose my thoughts and how I respond to circumstances – this can change my life
  • Become aware of my self-talk so I can become a good friend to myself
  • Shift from fight flight freeze to attend and befriend
  • Train my mind to be Velcro for the good and Teflon for the bad
  • Recognize, savor, and be thankful for moments of joy in my life

The whole point of your north star is to help you make skillful decisions in each moment. By moving toward your North Star, you bring more happiness to yourself and others. You may feel more comfortable taking risks because you have a beacon to hone in on if you get off track.


You may choose to close your eyes to contemplate what is crucial to you.  Reflect on your aspiration, the overarching desire for your life.  Don’t try to reach out for answers, simply sit with the questions and wait for the answer to reveal itself. After you have sat with the question for at least a minute, jot down your answer without judging or editing. You can wordsmith it later; for now, get the concepts down.

  • What’s the most important thing?
  • How do you want to grow in your life? 
  • What would make your life more of what you want it to be? 
  • What makes your heart sing?
  • And what weighs it down?
  • By what should I set my life’s course?
  • What passion of your past do you want to bring back into your life
  • Then answer Mary Oliver’s question in her poem The Summer Day “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Our North Star helps us to be all that we can be.  It is not about being different from who we are.  It is uncovering our innate potential, the fullness, and truth of who we are. The North Star is not another item on our To-Do list; it is a guide, so we don’t get thrown off course. It allows us to align ourselves when we might act unskillfully and instead move towards more skillful actions. Every day, reflect on your aspiration, neurons that fire together wire together, where attention goes, energy flows.