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Book Review: Finding Your Own North Star, by Martha Beck

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Finding Your Own North Star is about discovering what you want out of life and how to achieve it. Martha Beck is a life coach and she has drawn upon her clients’ experiences to write this book. She offers practical advice, inspiring true-life stories and a series of exercises to help you work out what it is that your dreams are, and how you can set out in the right direction.

Paramount to Martha Beck’s philosophy is that we have two selves – the social self and the essential self. The social self is the self that has absorbed the rules and conventions of society and with them a series of harmful rules that stop people from understanding and knowing what makes them unhappy, and how to change these feelings. For example, you may feel that you are constantly stressed and can’t fit everything in, but that you have to stick it out, otherwise ‘everybody’ will be disappointed in you.
The essential self, on the other hand, is the self that knows without a doubt what it wants from life, what your dreams are, and when what you are doing is taking you off track and thus making you unhappy. For example, you may be working in an energy sapping job for which you have no enthusiasm, and might feel you would rather be doing something else. Beck argues that you may feel afraid of following these dreams because of the demands of the social self – for example, you may feel that other people will judge you.
If there is a conflict between these two selves, Beck says, you are leading a conflicted and unhappy life. She sets out a series of questionnaires that help you work out what it is that might be making you unhappy, and whether you are listening to your ‘essential’ self. She helps the reader build a picture of their essential selves and their social selves to gain insight into what it is that makes you tick. At the beginning of the book, you may not know what it is you want to do – Beck makes it clear that it takes time to learn to listen to yourself.
Beck guides the reader through this initial lesson, through to what to do once you have worked out what it is your essential self wants. She talks us through the different tools you can use to chart your own ‘heroes journey’ and what to do with the emotional energy that comes from learning what your deepest dreams are. Some aspects of the book might not appeal to everyone – for example, I found the chapter about intuition a little new-agey – but the rest of the book deals with coping with emotions such as fear, grief, anger and helplessness, how to find your joy and keep hold of it, and how to chart your own course towards your dreams.
The book gives you the tools to learn more about yourself. Her goal is that by the end of reading this book and doing the exercises, you will come away with greater knowledge of yourself and what kind of journey you might want to take.

By Lizzie Ward, deafauntie’s resident book reviewer
For more reviews and other writings by Lizzie, visit her website here.

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