In a perfect world, we would all easily become who we’re meant to be — we’d find our life’s purpose. But, as most of us know, that path typically isn’t marked very clearly. It’s often foggy and misleading.
In fact, we could compare living out our true passions as following our own North Star, or at least that’s how Martha Beck describes this journey in her book, Finding Your Own North Star. Beck breaks us down into two selves: your essential self and your social self. Your essential self is the one that draws you towards the things that truly matter to you. Your social self is the one that follows the rules—it’s the rational one. For example, “your essential self yearns for the freedom of nature; your social-self buys the right backpacking equipment.”
Ideally, the two work in perfect harmony to guide you to your North Star, or our true happiness. “The one thing that will never change is that always, in every single moment, your nature will be urging you to notice the still, bright point of light that leads you towards your destiny,” Beck wrote. “The compasses inside you will always be pointing the right way, even if you forget to check them, even if you fail for a while to hold your course.”
But, external factors like pressure from our friends and family, money, or society itself, can throw our internal compasses off, and we find ourselves stuck in a mediocre job or self-sabotaging what’s supposed to be “good” for us. If you’re feeling discontent, anxious, or frustrated, you may be off the course to your North Star. Below, Beck lists 3 signs that mean just that—being sent to you straight from your essential self. Recognize and use these signals as a guide to getting you back on course towards a more fulfilling and joyful life.
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1. Your energy levels
The consensus is that Monday’s suck. But if you’re feeling drained 24/7, especially by obligations that you feel like you have to be at, then this might be a message from your essential self to change the obligations in your life. “If your whole life is dominated by rigid social-self requirements, you may feel enervated and listless all the time,” Beck said. Your energy levels could also fluctuate wildly, depending on what you’re doing at the moment, such as something you love or something you hate, like your job.
Trying as hard as you can to remember an important date, face, or name typically proves no avail if you truly don’t believe in it. “It will conveniently forget things that help you go in a direction it doesn’t like, and when your social-self tries to remember what you’re doing, your brain will simply refuse to recall the information,” she wrote. You can force it, but it just won’t work.
3. Fight or Flight
You’ve probably heard about this before: we have this ability to fight-or-flight in times of distress or battle. But when our social-self suppresses such adrenaline-pumping feelings, caused by living a life we don’t truly want, it can lead to anxiety while we’re both awake and asleep. “It messes up your waking life, and completely trashes your sleep.”
Illustration: Marie Guillard