Musings of a True Norther – How I Found My True North

You may or may not a fan of Jane Fonda, but she did a Ted Talk a few years ago that challenged people in there 60s to contemplate their lives. I am in my 60s and I took her challenge seriously. She divides out a person’s life into 3 acts.

  • The first act is from birth to 30. That is the period of becoming an adult.
  • The second act is from 30 to 60 and during this period we raise our children and work.
  • The last act is from 60 to death. One of the life goals during this act is to contemplate: How did I get here? Or, how did I get to be the person I am? What were the influences that made me the person that I am?

Or, how did I find my True North?

If you have any interest in being the person that you wish to be, or the person who has found their True North, consider some of the things that influenced me and helped me find my True North:

  • I followed my heart. I have always loved helping people and teaching them. I experimented with various things, but I dreamed about being a Family Therapist because I loved solving family problems. I have also loved working with young adults, that is to say, teenagers. I loved being a teenager and I believe that this should be the prerequisite for working with teenagers. Following my heart has led me to my True North.
  • I followed the voices of others. I remember as a teenager hearing a mentor of mine exclaim that you should never do the thing that you are passionate about as a profession. It took me a decade to unlearn that advice. I have come to believe that the truth is that you should follow your passions and pursue them as a vocation. So, not everything that you hear is helpful in finding your True North. Then there are those people that say things that inspire you to follow your heart. One such person was John Gilespie. It was in 1995 and I was in my last semester of my Master’s in Social Work degree. John was a friend and fellow student. As I talked to him about what I had been dreaming, he said, “Mark, I can hear the passion and excitement in your voice when you talk about being a Family Therapist.” I have never forgotten those words.
  • I nurtured and fed my curiosity.I have always been a curious person. Every time I get presented with a new problem or a new intervention, and I seek to know as much as I can about them. I cannot tell you the number of books that I have read. Reading is a way of sorting through the dreams of others. It helped me to find my way, to find my True North. Seeking knowledge and reading books is like holding a lamp over a map. It gives you the lay of the land that others have traveled. Reading gives you a direction to live, or helps you find your True North.
  • I acted on my dreams. You cannot find your True North if you do not act on your dreams. It means taking risks, working hard, and planning and organizing. It means surrounding yourself with people that can help you find True North. People do not find their True North by themselves. I did not find mine by myself. I have been successful at finding my True North because I have been successful at finding people that I care about, that also share my dreams. Acting on my dreams means sharing my dream with others and inviting them to be part of those dreams.

There is no “one way” to finding your True North. In fact, there are many ways. I’ve shared mine. I hope that this has inspired you to reflect on your journey in pursuit of your True North.