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Discovering your true north makes life easier: Here's why

August 17, 2021 - 16 min read



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What does it mean to “find your true north”?

Why are leaders constantly asking themselves what their true north is?

After you found your true north: the benefits of a clear mind

How to find your true north in 6 steps

30 questions to reflect on

Find your true north — find your calling

Do you ever feel like you’re just going along for the ride that is life? Are you looking for a sense of direction or purpose?

It could be time for you to find your true north.

No, we’re not walking about the true north you find with a physical compass.

We’re talking about your own true north. That inner sense of what you want to accomplish in life. That calling keeps you on the right track to being your authentic self.

Authentic leaders are vital for a team to be successful. And for leaders to really be authentic, they need to discover their true north.

Here’s a guide on how to find your true north and why this process is so important for leaders in particular.

What does it mean to “find your true north”?

The phrase “discover your true north” was coined by Harvard Business School (HBS) professor and author Bill George in his bestselling book by the same name.

While the ‘finding your true north’ meaning originated from the north point on a physical compass, Bill George explains that discovering your true north is about following your internal compass.

Just as a compass points at a fixed point on the globe, your personal true north pulls you forward. It guides you on your path to your destination and helps you stay on track to become the best person and the best team leader you can be.


When you find your true north, you discover your authentic self. It’s a combination of your purpose and your beliefs. You decide what you value most in life and put that at the forefront.

Once you’re aware of this inner sense, you’re one step closer to answering your calling.

Your true north is unique to you. No matter how similar they are, no two people will have the same true north. It represents you as a person on the deepest level.

Why are leaders constantly asking themselves what their true north is?

For today’s leaders, it’s not just about delegating and giving orders from a place of authority.

Being a leader means so much more. Most importantly, being successful in your leadership role means displaying authentic leadership.

In order to become an authentic leader, you need to first assess your leadership principles. This inward assessment and realization is part of finding your true north. This is why business leaders need to constantly ask themselves what their true north is.

One of the most important questions a leader can ask themselves is, “Why do I want to be a leader?

When leaders find the ‘sweet spot’ of motivation that is their true north, they will be able to work toward goals and help their team grow.

Even if they momentarily forget their values as a leader, having their trusty internal compass pointing to their true north will help them stay on track.

After you found your true north: the benefits of a clear mind

Finding your true north comes with numerous benefits. Let’s look at six of them:

1. Become an authentic leader

Finding your true north helps you to develop those positive qualities of a great leader.

Among others, these qualities include transparency and authenticity.

The relationship between leaders and team members is based on trust. Just as a leader trusts their team to complete their jobs efficiently, team members must believe they have an ethical leader.

They need to feel that their leader has integrity and is wholly committed to inspiring them as a team.

Finding your true north is a crucial step toward authentic leadership. You need to be true to yourself and what you believe in before you can empower others to do the same.

2. Increase your self-awareness

Despite its importance, true self-awareness is a rare quality. How many of us can objectively evaluate ourselves? It can be difficult to take an honest look at our lives without giving in to our thoughts and emotions.

But when you find your true north, you begin to understand what really makes you tick as a person. Your mind becomes clear of that internal and external noise.

Through self-awareness, you become conscious of what you value as a person. You can then align your behavior with what you value the most.

3. Develop intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is doing something for yourself without an external reward. You want to do something because you enjoy it, not because it is expected of you.

When you find our true north, you are listening to your internal compass. You act for yourself based on what you truly enjoy and value and not what pleases others.

Being intrinsically motivated will help you to stay inspired and motivated because you truly care about what you are doing.

4. Excel at what’s important to you

Finding your true north helps you to find your purpose in life. Once you’ve discovered your true calling, you can focus on that fully.

Getting to where you want to be takes time, practice, and dedication. For example, if becoming a supportive manager for your team is your goal, you’re going to have to work on it. Read up on managerial books, get feedback from your team, and reflect on how you can improve.

Once you discover your true north, you can dedicate your time to becoming the best version of yourself you can be.

5. Create a positive change

Before you can really make a positive change in the world, you should start with an inward reflection of yourself. Put simply, to take care of others, start by taking care of yourself.

The clarity that comes with finding your true north is the first step towards empowering others. As an authentic leader, you can empower others when your actions come from a place of authenticity.

When you have a clear sense of direction, you are better equipped to help others find their own true north.

6. Make better career choices

Among other areas of your life, finding your true north gives clarity on what you hope to achieve in your career.


Once you have a clear understanding of what really motivates you, you can plan your career based on your interests, skills, and values.

Making career choices based on your internal compass sets you up for long-term success and overall career satisfaction.

How to find your true north in 6 steps

Now that you know the benefits of finding your true north, let’s dive into a step-by-step guide on how to actually do it:

1. Decide what’s important to you

Finding your true north is all about determining what makes you intrinsically happy. Ask yourself the right questions about what you value in life.

We will talk more about what questions you can ask later.

2. Write a list of values and principles

Once you’ve decided what makes you happy, take some time to write down your core values.

This can include personal values like family, freedom, and adventure. It can also include work values, like autonomy, job security, or helping others.

For more clarification, rate how much each of the items matters to you on a scale of 1–10.

3. Create everyday actions

Do things every day that will remind you of what is most important to you.

This includes activities that will clear your mind, such as mindfulness and meditation, journaling, or walking. Ensure you have a good work-life balance.

External pressures like stress make it easy to forget about our internal compass. These kinds of actions will keep your true north in your mind’s eye.

4. Have self-compassion

Finding your true north can be a lengthy and somewhat draining process. Be kind to yourself by having self-compassion and try not to rush the process.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to have a lightbulb moment that will suddenly have you on the straight and narrow to inner guidance. Finding your true north as well as acting based on your intrinsic principles is an ongoing affair.

5. Ask others for help

Seek insight from those around you.

Often, our friends, family, and co-workers can act as a support team to help you find what makes you truly happy. Getting an outsider’s opinion can bring some perspective to the process.

While finding your true north is a personal journey that only you can take, those close to you can help you realize what aspects of your life allow for a truly meaningful life.

6. Create a personal vision statement

A personal vision statement is a statement that describes your values, your strengths, and your goals.

In essence, it’s a statement that embodies your true north.


Try to transform your newly discovered true north into a personal vision statement. Write it down so that your true north becomes more tangible. Refer to it frequently as your personal point of reference and as a reminder of where you have to go.

30 questions to reflect on

Here is a list of questions to ask yourself to help you discover your true north:

  1. When was the last time you felt pure joy?
  2. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? What’s stopping you from doing this?
  3. What worries you most about the future?
  4. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
  5. What battles have you fought and overcome in your life story?
  6. If you could turn back time, what would you do differently? Why?
  7. Which aspects of your life are you able to control?
  8. What thoughts distract you when you’re trying to get to sleep?
  9. If you could only use five words, how would you describe yourself?
  10. Who do you look up to? Who are your mentors that inspire you the most?
  11. What are the three best decisions you have made in your life?
  12. What is your Achilles heel — personally and professionally?
  13. If you lived today over again, what would you have done differently?
  14. What risks did you take recently? Why?
  15. What are you grateful for?
  16. Write down your talents, passions, and values. How can you use them to serve and contribute to society?
  17. What does success look like to you?
  18. What price would you pay to give up on your dreams? What price would you pay to achieve them?
  19. If you had more time to do what you love, what would you do?
  20. If you had the chance, what would you tell your future self?
  21. Make a list of the people in your life who genuinely believe in and support you. Why does their support mean so much to you?
  22. How have you changed from the person you were five years ago?
  23. If you could run away, where would you go and why?
  24. If money wasn’t an issue, what would you pursue?
  25. What piece of advice would you give to 5-year-old you? 16-year-old you? Right now?
  26. What is something you love about yourself but wouldn’t want to admit out loud?
  27. What does your ideal day look like?
  28. What habit would you most like to break? What habit would you most like to start?
  29. What do you want your legacy to be?
  30. Now that you’ve answered these questions, what is your action plan? What steps will you take towards growing personally and professionally?

Find your true north — find your calling

Each of us has a different approach to life and a different path to take. Your true north will be unique to you.

When leaders find their true north, they have passion for a company’s mission and values. They have the ability to empower others through compassion and empathy.

Whether you want to become an authentic leader in the workplace or need some guidance on this journey called life, finding your true north will bring you greater meaning.

Get in touch with a BetterUp coach to help you find your internal compass.

Let’s work together to discover who you are at your deepest level and awaken your potential.

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Published August 17, 2021

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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