I was surprised by a question I was asked after speaking at the University of Toronto a few months back. A gentleman came up to me and said, “I have a 22-yr old daughter. How do I show her how to find True North?”

My first thought—he’s generous to think I’m qualified to help. My arrow bends south more often than I’d like.  But I must have said something in my remarks that sparked the question, so we began talking. I told him I’ve met many women and men in their 20s and 30’s on this book tour, and I learned they’ve discerned a lot through what doesn’t feel right. A job or industry doesn’t gel with who they are. Maybe a boss is unbendable, or the place rewards bullies. Learning True North is gradual stuff, because our knowledge comes from an intuitive place. There’s no exam to pass, we just have to live it, and feel it.  True North choices come from the heart.

Some are more obvious than others.  In my second senior leadership job, my key duties were negotiating. The culture of my company was winner- take- all, and it never fit me. After a particularly grueling set of negotiations, a client of the company’s (not mine personally, but I knew him) came up to me at a trade event and said, “Your people were pigs!”  That made my leaving a pretty black and white decision.  Still, I had remained there six years.

You can come to know True North through practices that open you to it. As busy people, doing these things can be the last thing on your list, but True North wants to be known and will keep nudging you until you have to pay attention. Even when I was working like a dog building businesses, something in me yearned for this knowing, so I would get up early and just sit in the quiet. This was long before I even heard the word ‘meditation.’  In the quiet we settle into the depths of who we are, and aspire to be.

How do we uncover True North? Here are some* ways:

  1. Meditation and prayer, but not prayer as petition like “I want,” “Could I have…” This needs to be listening prayer. All channels–mind, heart, body– open to hear.
  2. Creative hobbies and habits-playing music, writing, dance, drawing, engaging nature- these open our right brains, which bring alive our instincts to connect with others, and to something greater than ourselves.
  3. Finding purpose. When we built HGTV we knew it could be useful to viewers, but we also envisioned it could be something more, and that became our purpose, which was to offer a place of sanctuary on television for those seeking it. That purpose elevated our work and made it mission-driven, not just functional. Watching could be an experience that would touch the heart.

The practices of finding your True North are available to anyone wanting to live an emotionally fit, fully human life.  These inner principles can then guide your life and keep ‘noise’ out of the system when make decisions and life choices. That’s called making them with wisdom.

*more tools are offered in Fully Human