20th February, 2024

Finding Your North Star

With Rachel Morris

Dr Rachel Morris

Listen to this episode

On this episode

We’re all seeking the perfect job or career path that will bring us happiness and fulfilment. But while we’re focused on achieving success, we can overlook the bigger stuff – and it’s possible that our current career trajectory might not take us there.

That’s why we need to find and then follow our North Star. Finding it starts with prioritising four fundamental needs: feeling fully human, deep connections, meaning and purpose, and growth and learning. By aligning our goals with these needs, we can find true fulfilment.

In this quick dip episode, Rachel outlines how we can understand what makes us feel alive, cultivate meaningful relationships and activities, and embrace continuous growth in all aspects of our lives.

If we carry on putting achievement ahead of our own needs – especially if we’re doing so to please someone else – we may end up feeling empty and unsatisfied.

But by tapping into those four fundamental needs, we’ll find ourselves on a path to a more fulfilling and balanced life.

Show links

Reasons to listen

  • To discover the four fundamental needs for true fulfilment in life
  • To learn practical steps to align your goals with these fundamental needs
  • To understand the consequences of prioritising achievement over fundamental needs and how it can impact your well-being

Episode highlights


What are you aiming for?


The first core need: physical wellbeing


The second core need: Connection


The third core need: Meaning and purpose


The fourth core need: Learning and growth


The fifth element: A need to achieve


Your north star




How do you need to live?


Don’t get pulled south

Episode transcript

[00:00:00] Rachel: Have you ever considered having some career coaching? That’s certainly what I did a few years back when I was so fed up with my job, I wasn’t enjoying it, and I was fixated on what job do I want? What should I do next? And a lot of us, when we are thinking about how to live a life in which we’re going to feel fulfilled and happy, we focus on what job so I need to do what career do I need to have in order to get there? And then we end up going to have some coaching or doing what we can to set goals in order to get to that job. We think we need the career coaching to work out exactly what job we’re going to do, and then we think it’s a question of just having a look around and finding that ideal career and then everything will be hunky-dory and fine.

[00:00:43] Unfortunately, that is not the way it works as I found out. Now don’t get me wrong, the career coach that I had was absolutely fantastic. But I thought that once I had found the right job, the most perfect job and career that everything else would fall into place. The problem was I was aiming at the wrong goal. I was following the wrong star. Because I guess all our lives, we thought, well, it’s all about why do. It’s all about what progress I’m making, what I’m achieving. And if I could find a job where I’m happy, where I’m doing some really interesting work, yes, it has a bit of meaning and purpose, but I’m achieving loads, and when I get to where I want to get to everything is going to be fine, we’ve actually got the wrong end of the stick. And what happens when we get there, we found that maybe we’ve climbed to the top of the ladder, only to find it’s leaning against the wrong wall. And actually, if you look over at the other wall, there’s just another ladder to climb up. Or we’re ending up doing stuff that we don’t really enjoy because we never really worked that wasn’t the first place.

[00:01:46] And the trouble with just having these career goals and these achievement based goals and this stuff around this is exactly the sort of job I want to get to, is that, to be honest when we get there, it can be really quite empty. And if like me or someone who likes to achieve a lot, you’ll find that you’re working incredibly hard. ,But maybe you’re not as happy as you thought you work in a B, and then you start thinking, oh my goodness. Maybe I’ve just aimed for the wrong job. Maybe I need to change careers again. Well, you ended up spending so much time doing the job that you love, that you never see your family, that you haven’t got time for your friends, you, you’re not able to keep yourself physically well. And then you think, well, if I’m seeing what I love, but I’m still miserable, what’s the point of that? And you ended up getting a little bit disillusioned and you might end up then throwing the baby out with the bath water and thinking, okay, well that must be the job rather than me, myself and I it’s the job. I’m going to change careers again. And the problem with most of us is that we’re pretty committed individuals that particularly in medicine, we don’t tend to hop around from creator creates a job to job. And often we stay far too long in places just because we’ll watch chasing this. I’ve done a change once, I’m going to stick to this one. And so we ended up burning ourselves out and not being particularly happy and just working somewhere that we feel is a little bit mediocre or working in the job that we love, but still being miserable because we can’t quite work out what the problem is. But what if I told you that it is possible to be happy and fulfilled, even if your job isn’t exactly the right one? This is a You Are Not a Frog quick dip,

[00:03:21] a tiny taster of the kinds of things we talk about on our full podcast episodes. I’ve chosen today’s topic to give you a helpful boost in the time it takes to have a cup of tea, so you can return to whatever else you’re up to feeling, energized, and inspired. For more tools, tips, and intoo.Hts to help you thrive at work, don’t forget to subscribe to You Are Not a Frog wherever you get your podcasts.

[00:03:48] Even if you’re working in a, in a workplace where the system, let’s face it. It’s still a little bit shit, where people are being irritating, but actually you love the work that you’re doing, what if I said it is possible to thrive actually even doing a job that you’re not that engaged with? Why and how is it possible to do that? Well, it’s all about following the right star, setting the right targets, the right aims. If our aim is to find the perfect job, we’ll probably never find it. Why? Because we take ourselves with us. And we affect it in the way we’re thinking about stuff isn’t going to help. But if we target the right things, rather than thinking about what the aspects of the absolutely right job was going to be, we need to think, what is it in life that lay want? What am I needs? What would make me really happy and feel like I was truly living my life?

[00:04:48] If I’m found completely honest with you, I haven’t really known in my life, what I was aiming at and what was going to make me truly happy. I distinctly remember standing on a tube station when I was coming back from doing one of the Lead Manage Thrive courses and I’d started the podcast and the organization and doing training for resilience. And one of my colleagues said to me, said, Rachel, what’s you want? What do you want out of life and out of your new business and everything?

[00:05:12] And I sit there and a thought, crumbs, you know what? I don’t really know. Because I had started this whole thing in order just to do something interesting, in order to prove to myself that I was able to do something a little bit different, in order to make sure that I was using my skills in a different way and to explore some stuff. I hadn’t really set any goals.

[00:05:33] But to me, setting goals seem to be a bit mad. Why would I set goals if I didn’t even know what they were going to be? Because let’s face it. A lot of us, when we do do career changes, we don’t really know what those goals are. It’s very difficult to say, well, I’m going to be head of X if you don’t know what X is or. I’m going to be earning this much money if you don’t know what’s possible. And is that the right thing to head for anyway? So when we set these goals, it’s, it’s very much pulling stuff out of the air and thinking, well, if I set that goal, then that’s going to make me happy. Well, How on earth do we know?

[00:06:06] Recently I’ve heard about these. For really core needs that we have as human beings. The first need is just a feel fully human, to feel great, to be enjoying ourselves. And that is all to do with feeding physically fit, getting enough sleep, feeling in a good mood, feeding that we are joyful. Now this doesn’t mean that we’re happy all the time because let’s face it shit happens and there’s some really hard stuff happening at the moment. But actually do I feel alive? Do I feel human? Am I experiencing the full range of human emotions? So we need our wellbeing. We need good mental health. We need to have decent sleep. We need to be eating well, all those sorts of things to be feeling truly human.

[00:06:51] The next thing that we need is really good relationships. Really deep connections, not just with other people, but with ourselves. And maybe upwards and outwards, depending on if you have a faith or not, you need to be able to connect with the universe. We need to feel connected. And the best way to feel connected is to have great, deep relationships with other human beings.

[00:07:17] And when we think about it, we will know that that’s really, really important. We know that being lonely has the health risk equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. But how often do we really focus on how am I going to make my relationships even better? I mean, we might sort of focus on that with our partner think, oh, crumbs, yeah, really got to get to the date night and how’s that gonna be better? But do we think to ourselves, well, how am I going to improve relationships with, with my brother or with my kids?, Or maybe even an aunt or uncle? Someone that’s been there for you all your life. We don’t actually think about that much or plan it. Well, certainly I haven’t until now.

[00:07:50] So you’ve got the sort of feeding, fully human and feeding well. You’ve got deep relationships, deep connections. Those are two really, really fundamental needs that we have.

[00:08:00] Another fundamental need is the need for meaning and purpose. And not just sort of meaning and purpose in the city of what’s my life about, what am I here for type thing, but actually meaning and purpose in the things that we are doing on a daily basis in our activities.

[00:08:15] I always remember when I first started as a junior doctor and I was absolutely knackered and shattered and I was saying to some friends of mine, Oh, why am I seeing this? I’m not sure I can keep, this is really, really hard, they were working in the city at the time and they said, Rachel, you’ve got some meaning to your job. Don’t underestimate the power of having meaningful activities. So we do need some meaning and some purpose in life and to be doing stuff that, that, that goes towards that. So that’s a third fundamental need.

[00:08:43] And then we need to grow and learn. We need to grow and learn and develop. You know, we know that at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, whatever you think about Maslow’s hierarchy, the need for self-actualization is that, and that just means the need for us to fulfill our potential. Now I know there have been times in my life where I have been. Pretty stressed cause I’ve had a lot going on, but I’ve been totally bored. Totally bored. I’m not learning anything. I’m not growing. I’m just going to work in the same old day job. And I found that really, really stressful. I really love now. Um, I’m literally constantly learning how to do this, how to do that about new ideas and things like that, and that’s so stimulating. Everyone needs to know that they are learning and growing and developing in some way.

[00:09:26] I think really that’s something that gives us hope. The hope that next year I’m gonna be learning about this or next week I’m going. And he knowing that, and things are going to change, they’re not always going to stay the same. So learning and growth is really important for us as a human being.

[00:09:42] Now there’s a fifth element, and, uh,. this one comes with a health warning, because there’s this what we get wrong. I think we do have the need to achieve as well. We have the need for success and achievement. Now I put success and achievement and instead of inverted commas because when we are purely aiming for achievement and success, that is the roots of burnout. As I’ve talked about a lot in previous podcasts, if we have that equation in our head that in order to be happy I need to be successful, in order to be successful I need to work hard, what we’ve got wrong is that bit in the middle where we’re talking about achievement based success.

[00:10:19] So I think particularly in medicine, we, we all want to achieve, we all wants to be successful because that is how we’ve got our worth over all these years. That story that if you work hard, you will achieve, and then people like you because you’re doing stuff for them, you’ve got really good grades, you’re got this research paper out, you’ve done this. You’re a big sheep here and et cetera, et cetera. We’ve got this idea that achievement will make us happy. And we know that that’s not true. However, I think that if we’re not achieving anything, If we feel that we haven’t really got anything done or we’re not contributing in any way, shape or form, that does the chat from our feeling of wellbeing.

[00:10:57] So I think we need that achievement and success, but in small doses, and I’ll tell you why. Because if we take those previous four points, deep connections and deep relationships, feeling fully human, feeling well, both physically and mentally and enjoying life, being engaged in meaningful activities, meaningful pursuits, having meaning and purpose in our lives, and growing and learning, if our north star, if the thing that guides us and thing we’re heading to doing any career change or any coaching or any time he wants to make changes, if that is what we have as our priority, then we can’t go far wrong. If we keep that as our target, that is our north star, that will be our guide.

[00:11:42] Now. If you have all those four elements present, then it is likely that you will be successful and you will achieve stuff as well. But if you focus purely on achievement and success, well, that will detract from all those other elements and you will be miserable, my friend. Believe me. I know I have tried it. So, what do we do? How do we focus on these four elements that should really become our north star? Our guiding principle?

[00:12:07] Well, firstly self-awareness is key. So knowing yourself. Like my deep relationships and connections are somebody else’s complete nightmare. I connect with people in a different way. My spirituality is someone else’s nightmare. You know, someone else’s way they connect with people, I don’t like. You need to know what that looks like for you. You need to know what does being fully alive and fully human look like for you? How much sleep do you need? What do you need to eat? What activities we can do that you really enjoy and that you really love?

[00:12:40] Now, but it’s very different for different people. People find that float in all sorts of different ways. I love talking to big groups of people. I love doing podcasts. For other people that’s their idea of a nightmare. So find that what it is for you. What gives you meaning? One person’s meaning is another person’s trivia. And vice versa. We all care about different things and isn’t that great? Isn’t that great? If we were all the same, it’d be quite boring, wouldn’t it? So what gives you, meaning what gives you purpose and how can you then engage in activities?

[00:13:10] So one person, they might fund a lot of meaning purpose through their work. And what they’re giving through their work, but for somebody else, they might go to work and find meaning and purpose in a lot of the stuff they do outside of their work. As long as you’ve got it somewhere, that’s great because you are never going to get everything from your work. So you need to include your hobbies and your activities when you’re thinking about what your guiding principles for your north star really, really is.

[00:13:36] And then growth and development. What does that mean? For some people? It just might mean listening to podcasts and getting some new ideas. Other people, it might be taking evening classes. I’ve got a friend she’s done an Eve different evening class every single term for the last 10 years. She’s brilliant at loads of different things. That’s what she loves to do. I’ve got another colleague who’s subscribed to a different magazine every year, generally something he doesn’t know anything about, and he just gets good at that and learns it throughout the year.

[00:14:04] What does it mean to you to be growing and learning? It could just mean growing and learning as a parent or as a partner or as a friend. Or if you’re a trainee right now, you’ve probably got enough learning and development already in what you’re learning and what you’re doing.

[00:14:20] So you need to know what do those four areas look like for you? Now, this is where career development really does come in. This is where you can see questionnaires and you can have coaching sessions to find out what are your strengths, what are your skills, what gets you into flow, what’s really, really important to you, what do you really want? And that can be incredibly helpful. But you need to do that after you’ve acknowledged that actually, it’s these areas that you are aiming at, not having the perfect job and the perfect career.

[00:14:49] And then you need to know how do I want to live in order to be able to get to that north star? Because frankly, if you are working 80 hours a week, just purely doing service delivery, that doesn’t allow you to learn or grow in any way and doesn’t allow you to keep yourself well, then you are going to be missing out on two major aspects. Your, your wellbeing bit and you learning and growing bit. Even if what you’re doing has a lot of meaning and purpose. And frankly, if you’re working that much In a week, you’re probably not having a lot of time for your relationships. So you need to get really, really practical and think, well, how do I want to live that gonna help me meet those north star needs I have, of feeling fully human, deep connections and relationships, meaning and purpose and learning and growing? How can I meet all those four? What does my weekly life need to look like to have time to do that?

[00:15:41] So work out what routines you need in your life in order to get to that north star. And a very simple way of saying that is to do our Thrive Weak Planner. And we’ll put a link in the show notes, you can download that. And that will help you, uh, plus out what an ideal week looks like for you, which gives you all that time to be able to do that. So once you’ve understood yourself a bit more, you’ll know what you really want, you’ll know what sort of things you need to be aiming for, and that is the target you should be heading for. That is your north star. So everything else. Flows from you trying to meet those key needs that should form the north star on your life.

[00:16:22] And the thing about this is that if you focus on achievement and success too much, then that is going to pull you south, in the opposite direction.

[00:16:30] But what else will pull you south, away from your north star? Well, it’s the thing that gonna stop you, and that is mindset. This is the stuff I talk about all the time on the podcast. Things like, well, why should I have that? Why do I deserve to be happy and have all my needs met when there’s lots of people in the world who, who don’t get to do that? And that’s a tricky one and people often say this to me and I guess my response as well, who’s going to serve the world better, you burnt out and unhappy or you full of life, feeling great and focusing on those meaningful pursuits and activities? You tell me that. So we gotta get away from the guilt of not being able to focus on ourselves.

[00:17:14] There’s also guilt around, if we are going to focus on the things that we really need and desire, sometimes we’re going to let people down. Other people who’ve maybe designed our lives for us, who want us to do this to please them. Other people’s expectations. And it feels difficult, doesn’t it? Feels difficult saying, no, I’m going to follow this path and I’m going to say no to that extra job, whether that extra shift or even maybe that promotion, because that’s not my north star, that’s heading south, that’s heading south towards the achievement success thing, which I know is not going to fulfill those north star needs I have. But when we’ve been judged on achievement and success, all our lives, that self doubt, that thing about, oh gosh, am I doing the wrong thing and the fear of what happens if?

[00:17:57] What happens if I fail? What happens if it doesn’t work, what happens if it’s too difficult to get there? And what happens if, when I get there? I don’t even like it? And the great thing about these north star needs and desires is that, you know, you’re going to like it when you get there, because you’ve already done the work about thinking about what is it that I need, That I want, that I love doing.

[00:18:23] And will it be easy? No. Course it won’t. It’ll be really difficult because you’ll have to overcome some deeply held stories and convictions about what you should be doing, what you ought to be doing. You’ll probably go against the grain a bit. When you decide to put limits on your work, or pursue things that really make you happy and that you enjoy, other people will look at you and they’ll feel jealous that they’re not doing it. They won’t say that, but they’ll start to criticize you. And they’ll say things that make you feel guilty or ashamed, or then, they’ll insinuate that you’re being selfish or you should be doing something else. And every time we listened to those internal inner critics talking about, well, you know, they won’t think very well of you and you want to do that and you shouldn’t do that, and you’re a bad person for doing this, it’s like the clouds coming over that north star and just clouding the journey for you. So thinking differently is so, so important. So think about the longterm thing. Think about who I can serve even better. If I follow my north star.

[00:19:24] For example, I’m sitting here recording this podcast had ever a million different things I needed to do in terms of emails, declines in terms of, um, briefings for some of our Shapes trainers in terms of preparation for certain. Uh, things, accounts, tax returns, all that sort of stuff. But I prioritizing this podcast and that took a lot of oomph, forcing myself to sit down because I know that this podcast is my north star. This is what I love doing. For me it’s really meaningful. And I just need to read the emails that you send to me about how the stuff and the ideas I’m sharing have made a difference in your life. I know that this is one of my north star activities.

[00:20:02] But in order to be able to sit down now and record this when there’s all these competing things going on in the background, I think I should. And I ought to do, it’s been difficult. But boy, I haven’t glad I did it. And that’s because I’ve sat down and I’ve worked out what my north star is and what I should be doing.

[00:20:20] And just a note. Some of these things in our north star, we find it easier to plot out than others. So we find it very easy to plt out what activity should I be doing that gives me meaning and purpose. But how long do we spend planning our relationships and thinking about, well, how do I sort that relationship out? So it’s much deeper connection? And that feels quite hard sometimes, doesn’t it? Because it involves two people that it may be involve doing some stuff that that’s going to take a bit of courage, doesn’t it? But just encourage you that, you know, these are the things that last in life. These are the things that make a huge difference.

[00:20:57] As Leonardo da Vinci said, If you fix your course on a star, you can navigate any storm. That’s so true. Life’s waves will come and buffer you, things will happen. But if you have got your true north sorted out, you will be on a fixed course, you will know where you’re headed, and you’re much less likely to be buffered by the winds of other people’s expectations.

[00:21:22] So I’d love you just to write down these four different categories. The deep relationships, the feeling fully human and alive, the meaning and purpose and learning and growing. I’ll just let you to jot down one thing that you can do this week that will guide you more towards following that star, than everything else that’s pulling you off course.

[00:21:44] And if you want to find out more about this, we’ve created a special download. It’s completely free. A toolkit all about how to find your north star. So have a look at that, download it. And I’d love to hear from you. What’s your north star? What you going to do differently in your week just to get more of that course set in your brain so that you can navigate that in its worst turmoil of thinking that you’re not good enough, you should, you ought? All those sorts of things and I’ll see you in the next podcast. I’m sure we’re going to be talking about this a lot more.