Be The Master Not The Servant Of Your Mind: Finding Your North Star
Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Who is it for: Anyone that has ever felt like a Chihuahua on acid, constantly riddled with anxiety and wondering if there is more to life than a constant state of fear and anger against the world.
What makes it special: The author has an incredible pedigree of experience and education. Her writing is accessible and funny, she is able to bridge conceptual teachings with basic and easy to connect analogies that are easily relatable.
Let's make some unnecessary labels: Personal development, anxiety control, organizational management, sociology.
The thought of quitting one's job and going to do something more enjoyable is one of the most recurrent fantasies. Depending on how creative someone's mind works, the idea of walking into the boss' office, addressing everyone at a meeting, and saying 'I quit' is a mental and cinematic scene repeatedly replayed in the collective psyche.
Why are people so unhappy with their job? With their life?
Contrary to the belief that work is not supposed to be engaging or rewarding. That, someone, must endure it to reach another higher goal -money, time, status, power, heaven. Most of the population needs work as a part of their general life structure. Work provides social interaction, in many cases, meaning, and the ability to problem-solve and to keep the mind and the body active and engaged. So, why do most people hate their job? The reason may lay in the original social structure on which society encourages people to join the workforce.
The system's values favor the collective over the individual. Yet, the system's values are not even those of a social collective, but an economical and production set up devised as far back as the industrial revolution. At that time, the rules were simple: train and introduce workers into the production line, make them produce goods, consume those goods, and continue until they die. The system may have become more sophisticated. Someone may find such a message challenging to identify in the much more nuanced and complex imagery provided in propaganda, advertisement, and even social values.
Still, while the industrial and technological revolutions of humanity have indeed changed the physical environment and living conditions of populations with technological innovations, the system's original values have changed little and often forget the well being and development of the individual and social collective besides primary considerations for health, and growth directed at the increase of productivity, not 'actual' human development.
It is no wonder that with such short-sided goals, the majority of the population spends their lives toiling at work without any sense of real meaning or engagement in their lives. Humans derive identity from their experience. If the background is one dimensional and focuses on economic development, then it is easy to understand why most people are miserable at work. Since individuals crave connection and are the product of their social experience, it is possible to understand that, no matter how unfulfilling or confusing, people stay within the system rather than step out of it at the risk of isolation and rejection.
The obvious answer would be to reassess the values and objective of society at large, from simple economic output to a more holistic humanly driven approach. While there have been significant breakthroughs in the collective psyche, and companies have begun to look at engagement, and other variable considerations. The system is unlikely to do the work that individuals must do for themselves.
Here is where Martha Beck's 'Finding your North Star:.." can help. Originally a sociology scholar Ph.D. from Harvard, the author has lived a tapestried life that has taken her from the throes of religious Mormonism to become a successful 'life coach' and thriving in a lesbian collective in the middle of Pennsylvania. Her journey reflects her inner work to rewire herself out of the social conditioning and find her 'essential self.' While perhaps, the effect of society and someone's individual experience is unavoidable from their psyche and decision process; the questioning can create the necessary bridge between finding a fulfilling life and meaning within the construct of society and communal living. Decision making may not escape social conditioning, but concious work can influence it.
Her work has extended well beyond her original book release in 2001. Yet, the concepts and narrative offered in it have stood the test of time. They prove to be as useful today as they were the day it became a best-seller, drawing the attention of many successful individuals seeking a way out of the 'misery' in their seemingly perfect lives. In her book, she offers a road map to discovering the 'essential self,' a particle of human experience that extends beyond the social realm on which it functions. The basic premise is to find a way to reconnect with that essential part, nurture it, carefully structure life around it, and watch the bounty unfold within the realm of society.
Her writing offers an alternative to traditional measurements of success as power, money, and achievement; Although, those are often byproducts of the changes that occur when someone stops working and begins living their life. Through her work, she makes a poignant note about the importance of finding the engagement in one's work not as an exit to 'the rat race' but as a necessity to succeed in it. In today's competitive society, the grith, commitment, and work necessary to succeed go well beyond someone's ability to endure discomfort.
Since several concepts in her work exist within the 'production line' of society, it is not enough to keep pushing forward, innovation and creativity are also required, and they only thrive in the minds and work of those engaged and content with their reality.
Work doesn't have to be unfulfilling; in fact, it cannot be. The level of performance needed to thrive in today's job market requires someone to be energized and engaged with their work, to make it part of their value set, and to become more than a side of someone's life, it needs to be in their life, and it doesn't have to be work.
“I am bewildering you a little. Just enough to help you forget what you came to believe, so that you can remember what you’ve always known.”
“No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth.”
“I’ve learned that the worst pain, fear, and torment I’ve ever experienced has only deepened my ability to experience joy. I feel this even when I’m hurting, because while pain and pleasure are mutually exclusive, pain and joy are not.”