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Published on August 25, 2019

How to Find Your North Star

How to Find Your North Star

Most of us are familiar with the concept of a North Star–it’s the star  (currently Polaris) that helps travelers on their journeys… acting as a guide to keep them on track. And, I firmly believe that we all have our own individual North Stars as well, which act in a similar fashion.

When I talk about a North Star, I’m referring to a life purpose. If you don’t have one, you’ll be lost in life. But, if you do have one, you’ll have a guiding light that keeps you firmly on track for fulfillment and success.

A life purpose is exactly as it sounds: a purpose that drives your life. For example, think of a famous athlete or musician such as Michael Jordan or Ed Sheeran. People like this live to express their physical, mental and artistic abilities. They’re passionate, energetic — and they know what they want to achieve in life. In other words, they’re following their North Star.

So how about you? Have you discovered your life purpose? Or are you simply drifting aimlessly on an ocean of wishful thinking?

Why We Should Seek out and Embrace a North Star

American author Denis Waitley said:  “Winners are people with definite purpose in life.”

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In my experience, this is absolutely correct. Winners know what they want, and they have a plan on how to get it.

If you’re struggling to achieve the level of success and happiness that you’d like, then you may need to spend some time to find and embrace your North Star (see the next section for help with this).

What benefits will following your North Star give you? Well, first, you’ll develop an almost super-human ability to overcome and defeat obstacles that come your way. This is because, you’ll be fixated on your end goal and won’t allow small things to stop you from getting there.

Let me give you an example of this:

You’ve decided you want to learn electric guitar. You purchase the relevant equipment (guitar, amp, leads, picks, etc.), and you subscribe to an online guitar tutorial site. For the first few weeks, things go well, and you make solid progress. However, unexpectedly, you break the top string on your guitar while playing.

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If you were just casually dabbling with learning how to play guitar, then the hassle of purchasing a new string — and learning how to fit it on your guitar — could be enough to end your fledgling hobby. But, if you were set on being a proficient guitarist, perhaps even a professional musician, then you certainly wouldn’t allow this obstacle to stop you in your tracks. On the contrary, you’d most likely head off straight to your nearest music shop to pick up a few packs of replacement strings, watch a YouTube video on how to fit it, and then carry right on with your playing! And, the next time you break a string, you won’t miss a beat.

Can you see now how a North Star (or big goal) can give you incredible energy, drive and persistence?

It’s the difference between a care-free attitude and a must-do attitude. The former will cause you to drift through life; the latter will keep you firmly on track to reach your desired destination.

A North Star is really just a greater overall goal that will allow you to align smaller, achievable goals to it. For instance, if you want to become a school teacher, you’ll need to pass your grades to go to college, then pass your college exams, then gain the appropriate work experience — and then attempt to secure a job. Without completing each of these steps, you’ll never make it to the front of a classroom.

In other words, big goals only become manageable when we break them down into smaller, bite-sized chunks. If you attempted to join a professional basketball team, for example, but you’d never played before, you’d be laughed off the court. But, if you trained hard, found a great coach, and had a burning desire to make it — the right doors would probably open for you.

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Let me ask you a question: Do you currently feel a little lost or unsure about your future?

If you do, don’t worry. Once you start following your North Star, all the other stars will begin to align for you! You’ll be able to keep your mind on the bigger picture, and you’ll understand the best actions to take in life to realize your dream. And, when you do this, your confidence will inevitably grow, you’ll give your health a boost.[1] In a research-backed article by Psychological Science, it reveals that following a life purpose can even help you live longer.[2] You’ll also feel energized by your progress in pursuing goals that genuinely mean something to you.

5 Things That Can Help You Find Your North Star

So are you ready to discover your purpose?

If yes, then read on to find out five ways that will help you do this: 

1. Break free from mental limitations— You know what I mean, your inner voice that keeps telling you that you’re not good enough to do or achieve the things you dream of.

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2. Ask yourself these questions: What do you love to do? What activities set your soul on fire? If money was no object, how would you spend your time?

3. Think back to when you were a child — What things brought you immense satisfaction at that time? And, were there things you loved to do, but adults told you to forget about them? …perhaps a dream about becoming an actor, dancer or astronaut?

4. Spend time in contemplation — Dwell on the answers to the above questions for as long as you need. And, then wait for answers to come into your mind. This may take minutes, hours, days or even weeks.

5. Listen to that feeling deep in your bones — You’ll instinctively know when your life purpose has been revealed to you. It will feel right to you, and it’ll also excite you to begin taking action.

Finding your North Star is a crucial first step on your journey to success, but navigating your way to it is a whole different challenge. To help you with this, check out my recent article: Need a Breakthrough from the Limitations Holding you Back?

Featured photo credit: Heidi Sandstrom via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious

Overwhelmed with work, family responsibilities, financial challenges and health issues are common culprits which catalyze stress and anxiety symptoms that show up differently in each and every one of us.

Whilst many of us are becoming much better at identifying what can trigger us to feel these, we’re not always that great at recognizing our individual thresholds; we don’t know exactly how to calm down when the mental, emotional storms erupt.

We can almost see you eye-rolling upon hearing commonly recommended stress antidotes such as taking a bath, lighting candles or going for a walk. Let’s face it. These simply aren’t practical things you can do when you’re on a red-eye flight at 5:30am to run a full day of training interstate and then fly back the same evening not to mention juggling a young family.

You want to know your triggers, predict the impact of them and have your own suite of tools up your sleeve to calm down that impact for the long-term.

Doing a little ground work to gain a strong self-awareness of your likely reactions puts you smack bang in the pilot seat to develop a robust mental and emotional toolkit that will work wonders for you.

A few simple but well-practiced techniques may be all you need to simmer down the cyclonic intensity of emotions, and disparaging thoughts pecking away at your self-esteem and confidence. However, it’s important you do this self-reflective groundwork first to gain maximum impact for long-term effect.

1. Strengthen Familiarity with What Triggers You

When you have arguments with your loved one, do you stop and look to see if there are certain things you fight about? Are there certain behaviors they display that drive you bananas?

Take your focus off them and ask yourself: “What is my usual response?”

Perhaps you feel the anger welling up inside your chest and you then spurt out that you’ve told him or her ten times before to not leave their underwear lying across the bedroom floor.

Think a little deeper. Ask yourself what values, standards and expectations you have that are not being met here. You’ll likely be attached to certain ways you believe things should play out. Are there assumptions and expectations as to how you believe people should conduct themselves and principles about how you feel you should be treated?

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Having a strong attachment to these for yourself is one thing. Expecting others to have the same attachment is often what can make the hot water start simmering.

It is often when people behave in ways inconsistent with our belief systems and events unfold in discord with what we expect and are prepared for that we feel the most stress and anxiety.

Make a list of the common circumstances in different areas of your life that cause you to become anxious and stressed. Against each of these, describe your stress response:

What happens? What do you feel?

Now think about the values, principles and expectations you have attached to these. You’ll see you have a few options:

  • Change my values and expectations
  • Try to change other’s values and expectations
  • Recognize and be in allowance of others having different values, standards and expectations

Reviewing how you react when you’re stressed and anxious, and identifying which of these three options above is going to best serve you, can greatly increase your ability to feel and be in control of calming your reaction.

You move closer to being able to choose how you want to respond as opposed to feeling helpless and the world is spiralling out of control.

2. Have Coping Statements on Hand

When you have a washing machine of chaotic thoughts churning in your mind, trying to implant thoughts that are the complete opposite of what you’re thinking and feeling can be pretty hard.

Not being able to do it can also add another layer of us feeling disappointment in ourselves. We feel we’re failing.

Having coping statements that you can literally latch on to to help you calm down in those stressful and anxious moments, can be particularly helpful.

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Look at creating palm cards and just have three to five of these you can have in your pocket or in your purse. Here are 6 examples:

  • Even though I am feeling this right now, I am going to be alright
  • What I am feeling right now is uncomfortable. I won’t feel this way forever. Soon the intensity of what I am feeling will pass.
  • I’ve survived these feelings before. I can do it again.
  • I feel this way because of my past experiences but right now, I am actually safe.
  • It’s ok for me to feel this way. My body and brain are trying to protect me but I am actually safe right now.
  • Ah, here you are again, anxiety. Thanks for showing up to protect me, but I don’t need you right now.

Choose words and dialogue that feel true and accurate for you. Read the statements out to yourself and test how fitting they are for you. What feels more assuring, calming and right for you?

Make these statements your own. The aim is of these statements is to de-escalate the intensity of what you feel when you’re anxious and stressed.

Remember, you want to refrain from having blunt statements which feel or sound like they’re self-reprimanding because they won’t be pacifying in a positive way.

If you are unsure as to how to come up with statements that fit for you, look to work with a psychologist or licensed therapist to give you a strong start.

3. Identify and Develop Physical Anchors

You actually have within you resources to provide some of the most effective ways to calm yourself down in heightened moments you feel stressed and anxious. Renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Peter Levine and expert in treating stress and trauma, teaches us how techniques which do this, such as Somatic Experiencing®[1] can significantly help us calm down.

By learning to be fully present and applying touch to certain areas of your body (e.g. forehead and heart space), you increase your capacity to self-regulate. You also learn how to attend to and release your unique symptoms that your body has been containing in a way you have not been able to before.

Here’s one technique example:

  1. Get in a comfortable position
  2. Have your eyes open or closed, whatever feels most comfortable for you
  3. Now place one hand on your forehead, palm side flat against the skin
  4. Place the other hand, palm down across your heart space above your sternum… the flat of your chest area.
  5. Gently turn your attention to what you feel physically in the area between your two hands. Observe and just take notice of what you physically feel. Is your chest pounding? How strong are its beat and the rhythm? Do you notice any other sensations anywhere else between your two hands?
  6. Don’t try to push or resist what you’re feeling. Try to just sit with it and remain this way with your hands in place until you feel a shift, a physical one. It might take a little longer, so try to be patient.

You might feel a change in energy flow, a change in temperature or different, less intense sensations. Just keep your hands in place until you feel some kind of shift, even if gradual.

It might take you even 5 to 10 minutes but, riding this wave will help you to process what discomfort your body is containing. It will greatly help to release it so you gradually become calmer.

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Purely cognitive exercises can be tough at the outset. Learning somatic experience techniques is particularly helpful because you’re engaging in exercises where you physically can feel the difference. Feeling the changes helps you increase confidence you can control and reduce the discomfort you’re feeling. You’ll be motivated to keep practicing and improving this skill you can take anywhere, anytime.

4. Move and Get Physical

If you’re not one to exercise, you’re robbing yourself of some very easy ways which help you calm down and reduce stress and anxiety responses. Many neuro chemical changes take place when you engage in exercise.

At certain levels of physical exertion, your brain’s pituitary gland releases neurotransmitter endorphins. When they bind with certain opiate receptors in your brain, signals are transmuted throughout your nervous system to reduce feelings of pain and trigger feelings of euphoria. You might have heard the term ‘runner’s high’.

For the last 20 years, University of Missouri-Columbia’s Professor Richard Cox has conducted research showing that high intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing anxiety and stress levels than other forms of aerobic exercise.[2] However, if you would rather slay dragons than turn up an F45 class, it’s essential you still find something that will physically shift you and alter your current mental and emotional state of mind, even just a fraction to start with. It’s 100% ok if this is not your cup of tea.

So in a day full of back of back-to-back meetings, what can you do?

If you’re sitting, stand. Change your posture and open your body up. Have a suite of discrete stretches you can do regularly as you deepen and engage in diaphragmatic breathing.

If you’re looking down at your desk at work and feeling increasingly stressed, look up and change what you’re looking at. Give yourself more than a few moments to decompress.

The main thing is to change your disposition from the one you’re in when you are experiencing anxiety and stress symptoms. You’re shaking it up to calm it down.

5. Transform Your Unhelpful Inner Dialogue and Its Energy

Learning cognitive restructuring techniques can truly work wonders in helping you recognize and re-frame unhelpful dialogue and negative critical thinking patterns. This involves a little preparation being transparent with yourself about what exaggerated perspectives you might ascribe to what’s happening when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.

When you open your email inbox and see a flood of requests which require more time and energy you have for that day, dread starts to settle in and the following comes to mind: “This is impossible. How can they expect me to be able to do all this? It’s completely unreasonable!”

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Instantly, many other thoughts that reinforce this line of thinking as well as the emotional energy of your first conscious thought start unravelling. A 4-step process you can engage to calm the eruption is:

  1. Catch and notice that first thought you had. What was it? What did you think and/or say to yourself?
  2. Recognize that what you’re feeling and be in allowance of the initial intensity of whatever those emotions are.
  3. Breath deliberately a little more deeply and slowly for a few seconds.
  4. State to yourself: “Right now (in this moment) I’m feeling overwhelmed by this, however maybe I can look at what I can make good progress and headway with as a start from here on.”

Notice the language in step 4 is tentative, supportive, soft and not resistant nor defiant of what your original thought was. You accept your original thought, but gradually you become stronger at pivoting it.[3] You’re expanding your growth mindset language.

It’s definitely worth working with a coach or trained therapist to learn how to tailor re-framing statements which can truly help you calm down.

Final Thoughts

We know, in our minds what we should do. When we’re in the thick of experiencing mental and emotional turmoil, it’s actually harder to implement what we know. In those moments, you’re unlikely to have capacity to think about what you need to do, let alone do it effectively to help you feel calmer.

The key is to practice so that when the storm is brewing, your toolkit and supplies are in easy access. You already know your safety drill well.

Knowing you have strategies and prepared processes up your sleeves helps you not only become better at calming yourself in amongst currently stressful situations. You have more confidence now to face more anxiety-provoking stressors because you have developed the resources to handle it.

How you invest time and energy into getting to know your triggers and thresholds will influence how effective these strategies will work for you. We’re not denying relaxing baths or regular massages are helpful, however these band-aid-like solutions don’t really confront the root causes.

If you truly want to turn your experience of your stress and anxiety symptoms around, dig deeper, do the groundwork and that which rattled your cage will quickly become a thing of the past.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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