What is our True North, the true ground of our identity? Where are we most centered in our lives right now? Where is our ‘home’? For many of us, the answer lies in where we reside. The physical structures of our houses, our apartments, our condos, or our school dormitories. Or even more broadly, our hometowns. For others, home is characterized by our place of worship: our church, synagogue, mosque, or temple. Or a sacred city, shrine, statue, or retreat. For yet others, it’s their ‘happy place’—their escape or their destination of choice. In these instances, home has geographic or structural roots and meaning.
Conversely, in the corporate world, the notion of ‘home’ is more commercial. It’s how companies build loyalty and grounding toward the company and its products. As consumers, we begin to consciously or unconsciously identify with a product’s feel, packaging, cost, quality, reputation, or value. When we walk down the aisles of a store, we actively seek out the product as a result. For it’s become a ‘home’, of sorts, for meeting our human needs, however manipulated we’ve become in the process.
While home is often physical, geographical, or commercial, it’s also emotional. Perhaps nothing describes this better than the iconic movie, The Wizard of Oz. Who can forget Dorothy’s famous line towards the end of the film? She said, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” With those words, she tapped her heels and repeated the phrase, “There’s no place like home.” And she was magically transported home. For Dorothy and for many of us, home is about feelings. Deep feelings linked inextricably with memories of family, love, food, holidays, celebrations, and milestones. Our hearts ground us squarely there. There’s no place like home…
But what if home’s greatest meaning isn’t about our feelings? Not about a location or a destination. Not a matter of something external to us. Perhaps not even about our hearts, if by so saying we mean our emotional attachments. Rather, what if our truest home is our True North? Our integrity as individual persons. More importantly, the Intentional Integrity of our respective identities. Because when we’re integrity-based inside, we’re joined-up with ourselves. We’re clear about who we really are. What we stand for. Our meaning, purpose, values, and vision for our lives. We’re firmly grounded, aligned, and integrated around these things. Centered. Authentic. Consistent. Both feet planted firmly.
To be sure, many things impede this notion of home for us. Our ‘big picture’ is often obscured by the pressures of daily living. Perhaps we’re victims of poor role modeling in our lives. We’ve been taught the false virtues of simply getting along. Going along. Taking the wide path. Following the crowd. Staying in the slow lane. Poor boundaries don’t help, either. Setbacks and losses can keep us on our back feet, as well. The work of healing can feel like a full-time job. And it can set us on new paths, not always in alignment with our real sense of self and our truest identity.
Here’s a thought, though. What if the greatest block to our integrity lies not outside of us? Not external to us. But from within. For intentional integrity requires our human will. Finding our truest spiritual home, this place of our grounding and identity in integrity, is a choice. And not just a choice, but also a discipline. A lifetime of repetition and practice. It starts with this core question: what do I want to ‘be’ about in my life? What is my brand—my core principles and values? What about me should transcend the pressures and whims of today? And become my legacy for tomorrow. For all times, even after I’m gone.
Then, once grounded in who I want to be, I need to choose the actions that best align with my vision of integrity. Not just choose, but also choose wisely. Because actions are not all created equally, as they say. I need to cast a ‘critical’, discerning eye on the specific things that actually move me toward my vision. What actions propel integrity in my life and in my being? And why? How? It’s important that I get clear and adjust accordingly. Conversely, which actions hinder my progress and blur my true identity? Why and how? Further, when I’ve identified these ‘blockers’, I must have the intestinal fortitude to change. To stop the things that get in the way. The things that cloud the clarity around what I want to be at my very core. It’s certainly not easy. In truth, it’s a challenging quest that never ends.
While actions matter greatly, they must be actually built on a foundation of honesty. About myself. Now, being honest with myself doesn’t mean condemning myself. It doesn’t mean my self-rejection, deprecation, or a centering hatred. But it does require my curiosity. An openness to see myself realistically as I should. A willingness to hold an unbiased mirror to my face and to my heart. The courage to remain curious and open to change. Like so many things in the spiritual life, holding a mirror to myself requires that I question my heart. Integrity demands a spirit of honest inquiry. And the discernment to distinguish between my intentions versus my intentionality.
In getting to the root of this intention/intentionality distinction, it’s important to explore the following: how is what I believe different than what I do? How is what I think different than what I do? The same for what I value. What I want to achieve in my life. And what I want to enjoy in my life. If I’m well aligned, then great! I should keep at it. But if they’re different, I have a connectivity problem. A disjointed integrity. Having said that, here’s the beauty of human life as gifted to me by God: I’m free to live and to ‘be’ more fully. To change. To continuously grow and better flourish in my identity. To become more intentionally integrated.
Lasting change thus begins with a choice. With big dreams. With honest and sometimes difficult questions. With reflection and discernment. With small or big steps. With actions. And with daily discipline and practice. But it’s possible. For me. For everyone. Possible if we’re brave and resolute. If we’re determined to live our own lives, not someone else’s. Determined to set and keep the goals necessary to be our truest selves more fully and integrally. To stay focused on the prize. And, in so doing, to say ‘yes’ far more often to the most important, not urgent, things in our lives. Conversely, to say ‘no’ far more often to those things which merely get in the way. No matter how enticing or tempting they may seem in the moment.
Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we can click our own heals and can be transported. Not to to our back yard in Kansas. Nor to another place or time or space. But, instead, to find our own ‘True North’. Our own identity of Intentional Integrity. It’s an inside job. It’s about what’s inside of us. About our very ‘being’. For there’s no place like home…
This essay is from my book Unbinding the Perpetual Soul: Our Human Quest for Being