Your North Star

silhouette of mountain range under stars
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The concept and reality of the NORTH STAR has been around for centuries.  Scientifically speaking, the North Star, or Polaris, is the brightest star in Ursa Minor constellation (the Big Dipper). Unlike other stars we see in the night sky Polaris stays constant in the sky no matter the season. It was the star that early explorers used to navigate their journeys. It is said to have been the star that slaves trying to escape their oppressors in the south used as they fled toward the north during the civil war years.

So, with this scientific and historical context, what is your NORTH STAR?  What is the one point in the sky that you are seeking, moving toward, focusing on? Question too deep? Maybe you could start by making a list of your values – those key concepts you hold most dear and that define you as a person/worker/spouse/parent/citizen. With your values in mind, you can then begin defining your own North Star.

Each of us has a lot to do – too much on some days, right? We could all fill our days with any number of tasks.  Our email inbox is screaming at us – “check me, check me!” Our TO-DO list grows longer and longer. And the voicemail box gets fuller and fuller. Each of these distractions offers an excuse to postpone our quest.

It is hard to decide what you should be concentrating on right now to move you closer to that elusive North Star.  Most of us tend to focus on the URGENT,  sacrificing the IMPORTANT.  We get distracted, sidetracked, drawn in unproductive and sometimes even self-destructive directions. That is when we need to ask ourselves that ever important question: What is the most important thing?

Of course, the answer is different for everyone. Will it mean going back to school? Seeking that new job? Starting that business you’ve always wanted to start? Will it mean getting out of your own way, clearing the urgent from your mind so that you can truly point your thinking toward the elusive, but essential, North Star?

So, for this week, and every week, let’s look North, shall we?

Backwards and Inside Out

man person street shoes
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I was getting dressed one morning recently and as I pulled my shirt over my head, I realized that not only did I have it on wrong side out, but backwards too. After chuckling to myself, I had an unsettling thought. What if that sets the tone for the rest of my day?

Have you ever had that kind of day when everything you do is either backward or inside out? Yeah, me too. Here’s how I choose to handle those days.

  1. Hit the reset button. When things are going wrong in your day/week/month, it is okay to take a breather from whatever is causing the stress. Take a walk, listen to your favorite music, go to a movie, read a book. By spending some down time doing things you enjoy, you can turn that bad day feeling around.
  2. Laugh at yourself. The inside out backwards shirt incident is worthy of a little chuckle. And so are many other slip ups during the day if you take the right attitude about them.  Next time one of those annoying blunders threatens to disrupt your day, laugh it off.
  3. Learn from it. Are there missteps that you can fix if you start paying more attention? I recently tripped on an irregular surface along a sidewalk I walk often. Total face plant, cracked rib and all. Now when I walk on that route, I pay very close attention during that section. I may still be a klutz, but I won’t fall THERE again!
  4. Stop Fretting.  As author Wendell Barry says, “All right, every day ain’t going to be the best day of your life, don’t worry about that.”

And I say learn, reset, laugh it off, and move on.

Pollyanna or Eeyore?

How’s your attitude today?

Olympic Medalist and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton talks about attitude this way: “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” His words run so true in my experience. Anytime I have failed at something, or lost my passion, it has been because I have lapsed into a bad attitude.  Same with you?

You may call me a Pollyanna, but I have decided to keep my attitude positive in life, work, family.  (Well, to be honest, I do not and never will have a good attitude about gridlock traffic, but otherwise, I am pretty positive.)

Throughout our lives we have many experiences that have the potential of shaping our attitudes – toward the positive or the negative. Family, health, money, education, and much more.  It is up to us to decide whether these external factors will influence us positively or negatively.

Henry Ford believed that attitude was essential to success. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right.” When you have a positive attitude about a task, you are less likely to spend your time complaining, blaming, or wishing things were different. Instead, you are focused on doing whatever is needed to accomplish your task.

A positive attitude is contagious, too, isn’t it? I love being around positive people and find energy from their positive presence.  I bet you do, too.  And boy do I hate being around negative people.  It makes me feel heavy, sluggish, lacking energy. Just thinking about those cartoon characters, Eeyore or Sad Sack, makes me tend to slump just a little.

Another inventor, Thomas Edison, had a great attitude about failure, commenting that he now knew one more substance that wouldn’t work in his light bulb. He viewed failure as a step forward! And we should too. When our co-workers, friends, family experience a set back, we need to be there with the positive spin to help them keep that “I can do this” attitude. What if you don’t keep a positive attitude in your work? How many of your efforts will fail because you don’t respond positively to the inevitable challenges?

So I leave you with this question to ponder: When you think about your own attitude, is it helping you or is it holding you back?