As we navigate through life, we can either travel purposely in our desired direction or we can surrender to the winds like a drunken sailor.

If we simply go with the flow and let the currents take us where they may, we may not like the place where we end up. We may arrive decades from now at a place full of regrets. And if there are important challenges in the way that we, as a society, lead our lives, prepare future generations, and take care of ourselves and loved ones, then going with the flow may not lead us to a place that we like.

Are you letting the wind and currents take you where they may, or do you have a Northern Star?

 A Northern Star helps us navigate so that each day brings us closer to our goals. In order to do this, we need clarity on what our goals are, and we need to understand that we can make the necessary changes and improvements in our personal qualities to reach them. To advance toward our goals, it may help us to think about how we define success, what our priorities are, and how we’ll measure progress along the way. For example, one of the life goals of a mentor of mine, Erik Johnson from the Summit Strategy Group, is to always be physically fit and healthy. For him, this means being able to play on his knees with his great-grandkids and to go on a major excursion with family and friends every year. The clarity of that goal motivates him to take care of his body and enables him to judge whether he is on track. The growth mindset that I know he has enables him to know that he can continuously improve his qualities and behaviors that move him toward his goals, enabling him to overcome obstacles such as the challenges that come with a busy travel schedule.

Some categories of life goals include work and achievement, human relationships, lifelong learning, joy, spirituality, health, contributions to others, adventure, creativity, creation and legacy. What are your life goals? The more we can define our goals from the bottom of our hearts, the more we can define them independently and detach them from comparisons to others, and the more uninhibited these goals become by the understanding that we can change ourselves through deliberate dedication and practice, the more fulfillment we’re likely to achieve as a result. Once we have these goals and a clear depiction of what they mean, such as playing on the floor with our great-grandkids, we can ask ourselves what we’ll do in the next week or month to improve ourselves and we can look back and see our progress. This growth process, not just the destination, is fulfilling.

But what if there is a tempest?

At times the weather may not cooperate. Whether we’re sailing drunkenly or purposefully, sometimes the waves push us off our path and disorient us, the skies darken and block our guiding stars, and we become soaked and cold. We may struggle to stay afloat. We may realize we no longer have our job, or have lost a loved one, or have to deal with a serious illness. It’s a crisis, and it doesn’t feel good.

When encountering this adversity, a growth mindset prevents us from feeling helpless and provides us with beliefs, expectations and strategies to find a way out. Although it’s never easy while it’s happening, a traumatic experience can feel like a blessing when, looking back years down the road, we realize that the tempest was a warning sign that we were sailing toward darker seas. We may re-evaluate our life goals, our Northern Star, and come out of the storm with a different navigation path. We emerge feeling stronger, wiser, more purposeful, and with a more defined life story.

Our goals at Mindset Works include helping you and those around you to grow in what matters most to you, so that you can achieve an ever more fulfilling life purpose. The growth mindset is fundamental to this journey.

Do you have a Northern Star? If not, how can we help you find one? If you do, can you share something about your path so far? It would be great to share, learn from, and support one another so that we can help steer each other more purposefully toward our desired destinations. (we’d love your comments below).

p.s. when I shared a draft of this article with Jenn Maichin, she pointed out The North Star book, by Peter Reynolds, a great resource if you want to bring the Northern Star message to your kids.