How Finding Your One Abstract 'North Star' Can Completely Change Your Life (Like It Did Mine)

Learn to turn your vague emotions into specific mental models.

Woman realizing what benefits her and what doesn't after taking two very different trips ArtHouse Studio, MarkusBeck, monstArrr_ | Canva

I went on two back-to-back trips recently. The first to Koh Tao, Thailand where I got my PADI Beginner Open Water Scuba certification. The second was to Kashmir, India, where I went on an 8-day Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. Both trips were extraordinary, to say the least.

In Thailand, I began my journey as an underwater explorer by becoming a certified diver. I overcame my fear of deep waters. I experienced the extraordinary peace present underneath the water. And I witnessed some beautiful aquatic life.


In Kashmir, I was stunned by the backdrops of beautiful snow-capped mountains. I witnessed multiple extraordinary alpine lakes. And I even dove into the chilly Gangbal Lake.

However, I didn’t feel the same level of satisfaction after both trips. I felt separate vague emotional responses to them. Put simply, I felt "good" after my Thailand trip, but I felt "not so good" after my Kashmir trip.


I was able to notice the contrast between the two trips because I went to Kashmir only 4 days after I came back home from Thailand. When we want to compare two things, we keep them next to each other, right? Similarly, the trips being right next to each other, coincidentally allowed my mind to compare the two easily.

But I was super confused. I mean, Kashmir was beautiful. It’s literally called heaven on earth because of how stunningly pretty Kashmir is. Then why did my mind find the Kashmir trip to be "not so good" while Thailand was "good"? The vagueness ate at me. I needed more specificity. So I decided to dig deeper into my subconscious.

RELATED: A Lifetime Journey: 5 Steps For Greater Development Of Self-Awareness

The answer: Our subconscious responses are characterized by vagueness. There are so many days when we feel bad, or low but have no idea why. That’s because words are not a strong suit of our subconscious mind. We feel good, bad, excited, low, off, high, etc. But our minds are not able to find a reason.


So it was not at all easy to find the answer to the question above. I had to introspect for hours, and only then was I able to realize why the Kashmir trip didn’t satisfy my psyche as much as the Thailand trip did. And here’s the answer.

The Thailand trip helped me feel "transformed."

Before the trip, I had never done Scuba diving — not even an introductory dive. I was deathly afraid of deep ocean waters. "Scuba diver" wasn't a part of my identity in any way.

After the trip, I felt transformed. I was no longer afraid of water — at least in the context of Scuba. I learned how to explore the underwater world. And I didn’t just try scuba. I got certified. My identity got a promotion.


Now, I’m not saying that I’m a super-confident scuba diver right now. In fact, I wouldn’t even call myself a scuba diver right now because I don’t feel experienced enough. However, I feel transformed because I’ve taken the first step.

But the Kashmir trip didn’t make me feel similarly transformed.

Sure, I witnessed the most beautiful landscapes nature has to offer. And yes, I learned many, many lessons on the trip. I grew as a person as well. But I didn’t feel transformed.

Upon understanding the specificity of the contrast between the two trips, I realized that my inner psyche craves self-transformation more than anything else. Sure, my psyche craves beauty, creativity, connection, etc as well. But self-transformation is priority numero uno.


And this epiphany changed everything. I made Self-transformation my ONE Abstract North Star for the foreseeable future.

Confusion is at the heart of human decisions — big and small. As so it was for me. But now, I don’t feel so confused and uncertain anymore. I feel more sorted than ever. I feel immensely confident about my decisions.

RELATED: 6 Things You Need To Do Now In Order To Find Yourself

Here are 3 ways this Abstract North Star is changing my life:

1. It’s helping me save time, energy, and money.

For a year or so, I’ve been planning a three-month Europe trip for the end of this year. I had saved lots of money specifically for this trip. I had already talked to my family about it. And I had also done extensive research and made an itinerary. Everything was in place.


But recently, I decided that I don’t want to do a three-month trip anymore. I cut short my trip and now, I’m doing a smaller trip to UK and Ireland — probably around 2–3 weeks. That’s it.

I realized that a three-month Europe trip won’t help me feel transformed like I want to. In fact, it would go against my current preferred fields of transformation.

Right now,

  • I want to transform myself physically. I want to increase my strength, get leaner, and increase my flexibility. I want to learn how to do handstands and backflips. And I want to eat right and further optimize my nutrition. A long trip would be a little chaotic, and focussing on all of the above would be much harder.
  • I want to work more deeply. I want to develop better routines and study more to advance my medical career and write more nuanced stories to enhance my skills as a thinker and writer.

Keeping these facts in mind, I just realized that a long trip doesn’t make sense. It’s better to do a small trip.


And even on that trip, I’m trying to focus on my preferred ways of self-transformation. I thought that instead of just "seeing and exploring" the UK, I would make it a mixture of exploring the UK and furthering my Scuba education by doing a course there as well.

Just think about how much time, energy, and money I’m going to save now that I trimmed my trip from three months to a few weeks.

Note: I’m not saying that a three-month Europe trip is bad. I’m just saying it‘s not what I need right now. It’s highly individual.

2. It’s helping me make decisions from influences within.

I’m a digital writer. And hence, I’m often moved by what other digital writers, even some of my writer friends are doing.


To grow further, digital writers write on other platforms as well. Twitter, LinkedIn, Substack — you name it. They also have newsletters and products on Gumroad. Some are on YouTube too. And, oh, they sell courses as well.

Obviously, because I’m a digital writer too, I feel the urge to do all of this. Countless times I’ve made exhaustive plans to start writing on Twitter and LinkedIn. But I could never follow through. I thought I was lazy. But I now realize that I wasn’t. It’s just that the urge to do all of this was never internal. It was external.

Now that I know myself better, I know how I want to transform as a writer. Right now, I want to dive deeper into subjects of my interest and write more nuanced articles. And I feel that Medium is the best place for that. Twitter and LinkedIn are not for me — at least as of now.

Hence, knowing how I want to transform as a writer is helping me make decisions rooted in authenticity — and stay unshaken by the outside world.


3. It’s helping me approach my life systematically — with confidence.

When I realized that self-transformation is what I care about, I was able to step out of the chaos and approach my life much much systematically.

I figured out that I want to transform myself across multiple domains — physical, financial, spiritual, etc. And then, I asked myself what I wanted to work on first.

With some introspection, I was able to come to the conclusion that physical transformation should be a priority because the 20s are the best time to do that. In addition to that, I realized that I must also work on my financial transformation so that money acts as a catalyst in the coming years for further self-transformation.

This is helping me approach life with a lot of conviction. Deep down, I know I’m doing the right things.


Note: Of course, you can observe that just knowing that I care about self-transformation was not enough. I had to go deeper. How did I want to transform? What would I prioritize? These questions had to be asked so that my self-awareness was at its peak — leading me to make better decisions.

RELATED: 100 Deep Questions To Get To Know Yourself Much Better

Why do you need ONE North Star? Why not two or more?

Think about it.

One, two, three, etc are not just numbers you use to count something. They have abstract connotations.

One has a numerical value, sure. "Eat one apple every day." But you also think of "oneness" with others, with nature and the universe. "One" also means simplicity and focus. In many ways, humans are driven to the multi-dimensional abstractness of one.


Why do you think Stephen Hawking was trying to find "THE Theory of Everything"? He wasn’t trying to find "Theories" of everything. He was trying to find "The (meaning; singular) Theory of Everything."

One is simplicity. One is focus. We crave the idea of one.

"Two" also has multiple abstract connotations. One of these connotations, important in the context of this article is conflict. Two opinions, two choices, and two directions represent conflict. You have to choose one over the other. You have to think about one which is better than the other.


That’s why, having more than one North Start means you’ll often be at crossroads. You’ll be conflicted.

Hence, you need to dive deep into your unconscious reserves with a spotlight, and examine your instincts and emotions, make sense of them consciously — and then, you have to come up with that ONE north star that will help you make better decisions in life.

Oversimplified advice to help you become more self-aware:

Self-awareness is not easy. Today, it’s easier to explore the remotest areas of the farthest country from you than it is to explore the unconscious reserves of your own mind.

At the beginning of the article, I mentioned how examining my two vague emotional responses to different trips and contrasting them helped me realize my abstract North Star in life. But to be honest, that’s a myopic account of my journey of self-awareness.


In reality, I’ve been on this journey for years now. With a shovel in my hand and a spotlight of consciousness, I’ve been digging into my unconscious mind for as long as I remember.

Hence, while it was only the last preceding shovel thrust that helped me hit the treasure chest I mentioned above — we cannot forget the many, many years of shoveling I’ve already done to even reach these depths in my unconscious mind.

It’s a grueling exploration. But I promise, you’ll find the most treasured jewels in the depths of your unconscious mind. Material things don’t compare at all.

Of course, self-awareness is unfathomably uncomplicated. But I want to give you some oversimplified advice to help you begin this journey. By giving you advice that sounds simple I don’t mean to insult the process of discovering oneself — because — let me just say it one more time: self-awareness is super complicated and difficult. I want to give you this simple, easy-to-understand advice to help you not get frustrated in the process.


Here it is:

  • Explore more. If you don’t, you will never begin to know what your mind wants and what it doesn’t want.
  • Catalog the vague emotional responses of your mind to those explorations. Words are not a strong suit of your unconscious mind. Its language of choice is emotions. And emotions are by definition vague. Catalog them nonetheless.
  • Do rational and analytical scrutiny to chip away at that vagueness and yield specific answers. Ask questions. Open-ended questions. And Yes or No questions. Ask yourself "Why do you like and not this?" "Is it because of this or that?" As you do this, you will mold your vague emotions into beautifully sculptured and intricate answers. These answers will help you develop similarly intricate mental models — that allow you to handle even the most complex decisions in life.

RELATED: 4 Rare Traits Of People Who Know How To Think For Themselves

Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.