I am working with a very small group of Awakening Coaches to support each of them to build a rock solid coaching practice. They are learning how to identify their ideal clients: the people to whom they have the most to offer. They are learning how to articulate their unique way of supporting people, and to turn that into blog posts, Facebook updates and videos.
This process has turned out to be a long haul, not nearly as simple as it might appear. On the surface it seems quite simple: learn the skills of writing compelling blogs, learn how to operate a video camera, learn how to post on Facebook and then Wham Bam, you are done!
But actually, the much more important and challenging work is not learning what to do, but discovering why you do not do it. The road to endless distraction is paved with good intentions. And so, a few weeks ago, I introduced these brave pioneering souls to an idea that transforms everything, and makes it all so much easier. It is such a helpful idea that I wanted to share it here with you as well. We call it “True North.”
You establish your True North with a very simple writing exercise that only needs to take you a few minutes. In fact, surprisingly, limiting the time produces better results than deliberating over it for longer. Take a clean sheet of paper and spend no more than 10 minutes journaling on what you would like your life to look like one year from now. It is something like a future of no regret. Items you might include are:
I’m making $4000 a month.
I wake up early.
I go to the gym 3 times a week.
I’m posting a blog once a week.
I’m posting video on YouTube once a week.
I have 10,000 Facebook followers.
I meditate for 40 minutes every day.
Of course, the content of this list is entirely up to you. The important thing is that your vision of a year from now has no compromise. It is the “as good as it gets” version of where you would like to be. Then, take a new sheet of paper, reset your timer for no more than 10 minutes, and do the same thing again, for two years from now. And finally, do it all over again for five years from now.
Establishing True North in this way is not intended to be a logical assessment of what is realistic for the future. How your life will work out is determined by many factors, some of which are out of your control. Visualizing and journaling in this way is simply a way of illustrating your values. It is a way to get clear about what it means to be on target, for you, and therefore what it means to be not distracted. It is much easier to discover your values as a visualization in this way, than it would be to write them out conceptually.
Once you have your True North established, it totally changes the way you do things each day. Without True North, what are you left with? In the absence of clearly articulated values, we decide what to do based upon what other people expect of us, or some fleeting craving for momentary pleasure or a fumbling attempt to push away pain. In other words, without True North our lives are governed by addiction and fear; neither of which generally produce satisfactory outcomes.
Without True North we are extremely subject to fleeting thoughts and feelings. You might wake up in the morning feeling inspired to live an outdoor life, connected with the earth; forget the overwhelming, confusing ways of the world. But as soon as you fire up a computer you may, for example, get lost in Facebook. Now you have decided you want to be a blogger, create online courses, and inspire millions. Next, as you are driving to work in your car, the news comes on, and you hear all about the latest calamities facing humanity. Now you want to volunteer for a cause, make a difference, be in selfless service. You get the picture. Unless we have some abiding sense of True North that can survive these constantly changing thoughts and feelings, we are subject to an endless series of false starts.
It is not only within ourselves that we find constant change and instability. The outer world is constantly changing too. Some days it will seem like everything is going well, and the winds are fully and generously in your sails. Other days it may seem like you are going to hell in a hand basket.
In my case for example, my True North is very much connected with my vision for Awakening Coaching. My “mission” in life is to train people to be facilitators of awakening, and the embodiment of awakening for others. There are days that feel like downhill skiing: I get invited to speak at Google or the United Nations, or some wonderful glittery new project, and whoopee, I am on top of the world, nothing can stop me. And there are just as many days when everything goes wrong: we missed the deadline, the website broke, etc… Then I just want to crawl under a rock and wait for the world to go away. The stronger your True North is, the easier it becomes to weather the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. When your values are extremely strong, worldly setbacks hardly affect you at all, and you have a great capacity to bounce back. If your values are weak or undefined, or constantly changing, the world becomes a very stressful place.
There is a school of thought, particularly among people who think of themselves as “spiritual”, which gives intention a bad rep. Instead, we want to go with the flow, surrender and be available to “whatever is meant to happen.” Certainly holding on to a vision of the future in a rigid way can blind you to the intelligence beyond your own mind. The solution is to review your True North vision every 3 to 6 months. See if it still holds true for you. True North is a trick to vaccinate you against the fundamental instability of the mind.
Once you have your True North statements written out, which you could have done within an hour of reading this blog, you can play another little fun game that makes all the difference. When you wake up in the morning, write down 5 things you could do today that are undeniably moving you in the direction of your True North. They could be small, seemingly insignificant things that just take 5 minutes each. For example:
Write a poem and post it on Facebook.
Call Rick and suggest we have lunch to talk about …
Spend at least 15 minutes in meditation.
Spend 15 minutes doing a simple art piece.
Post an image on Instagram connected to my vision.
If you just take a few small and simple steps each day that are aligned with your True North, and then check them off at the end of the day, you will quickly discover that you trust yourself more and your life becomes tangibly and unmistakably infused with a sense of purpose and meaning.