–by Julia Butterfly Hill (Jan 30, 2015)
Imagine you and your life as a compass. For a compass to work, it must have a magnet that aligns with the earth’s magnetic true north at any given time. If your compass has no magnet, the arrow will spin around aimlessly and the compass will be useless.
In a production‐driven society, we are like compasses with no magnet. We think the arrow on our compass is pointing us in the right direction. So we follow the chatter in our minds and our lives that goes something like, “Maybe that’s the right job,” or “Maybe that’s the right person,” or “Maybe that’s the right education.” There are so many ways we look outside of ourselves for fulfillment, meaning, and purpose; we are just like the arrow seeking to find “true north.” Then we get really excited when we feel we have found something that feels as close to “right” as we know how to find.
Now imagine living your life “ON PURPOSE,” realizing that your true power does not come from outside sources, but rather from who you are BEING and what you are choosing. This purpose is like the true north that allows your life to line up with it. In other words: You become powerful enough to cause your world to line up to you! YOU are the true north on the compass, calling and causing your life to match you in manifesting your life’s dreams, passions, and purpose.
We so often live our lives from a very small place. We look only at what we think we can control, manipulate, coerce, or deal with. We so rarely give time and attention to what lights us up, what would enable us to have miraculous lives, and would have us be a contribution to the world in a way that amazes even ourselves.
Can you imagine what our world would be like if we all walked around asking each other these kinds of questions instead of the kinds of questions we so often limit ourselves to?
My purpose is to live a life of integrity and loving joyous service. Yet, I only clarified and articulated this purpose very recently. I reflect back to when I lived for two years in an ancient redwood tree named Luna. Sometime between the day I climbed up into the tree—planning to stay there for two or three weeks—and the day I declared, “I am not coming down until I have done everything I can to save this tree and make people aware of the plight of old growth forests,” my “true north” kicked in. I was overtaken by a desire and calling far more powerful than my own limitations.
When I first climbed Luna, I just knew that I had to do something—because our inactions make just as big a difference as our actions do—even though I was not quite sure what I could or would do. I started with the first step and trusted that the higher force that was calling me would lead me in the right direction.
I trusted that there was a purpose for me—one I could not even begin to imagine—and followed it through my fears, hesitancies, and reservations. There is a beautiful saying that speaks to these moments when we must trust in a very profound way. In these moments we will walk to the edge of the cliff and leap, knowing we will either land safely or grow wings and fly. ￼￼ ￼
There are no assurances in moments like these; only a deep and profound knowing that our purpose is like a river for our soul. It has a path. It has a power. And it has a direction calling it forward.
While in Luna, I realized that service, integrity, love, and joy were core to who I am as a human being. But I didn’t yet know this was my purpose.
I climbed a tree because it was the first thing that came to me as a way to serve the beautiful ancient redwoods. Then I began communicating about what was happening because I realized the trees needed someone to speak on their behalf. So this was how I could be in service.
People began responding to what I had to say and the way in which I was saying it. Then people began interacting with me as a speaker and a leader. Somewhere in the midst of all of that was when I began to lose my purpose and my joy started to leave like air from a leaky balloon.
I started taking on the role and responsibility of leadership because that is what people seemed to need from me. Without even realizing I was doing it, I started acting out of a sense of obligation instead of inspired purpose.
Eventually, I found myself dreading every event and interview. I tried altering the way I was doing events, tours, and interviews in hopes that this was what I needed to find my joy again. But fixing and changing it didn’t work. The final wake up call was when I realized I was wishing I would get extremely ill, so I would have an excuse to not have to keep being so responsible for everything. Then I realized how out of that purpose I had become. Nothing—no changes, alterations, or fixes— could solve the problems I was experiencing as long as I was out of my purpose. I could create temporary bandages, but sooner or later, I would find myself feeling wounded, sad, and cynical all over again.
I realized that a key part of my purpose is SERVICE and I had allowed that to be transplanted with LEADERSHIP. One of my friends said, “Julia, It’s like you are a strawberry, but the world said it needed banana bread, so you put on a big cumbersome banana suit.” This so perfectly summed up what I had been feeling and experiencing for years.
Yes, I had developed a gift for sharing what I was thinking, feeling, and experiencing in ways that inspired and motivated others. Yes, I have the capacity to be a strong leader. But my purpose is to serve. Sometimes that shows up as leadership, sometimes it shows up as cooking breakfast for a friend, working on an art project to auction off, climbing a tree to help save it, or writing a story for this group.
Returning to my purpose, I rediscovered myself—the self I had lost, but had been there all along waiting for me to remember and reclaim.
One of the beautiful gifts of living my life as my own true north is that I find myself not only feeling more joyous and alive, but I also find myself manifesting things I never could have imagined when living within the self‐made confines of obligation. ￼
When we get clear on our purpose, we get in touch with the true north that has always been inside of us, waiting for us to discover it. We realize that our happiness, power, and dreams do not rely on outside forces to manifest, even though we spend our lives searching for the job, person or product that will once and for all fix our lives. We learn that hiding inside of us is a person who is even more powerful and more magical than our minds would let us believe.
May you come to see that your life is a gift and a contribution bigger than your wildest dreams. May you experience the miracle that you are. May you discover the reason that you are here on this planet at this important time in history.
–Julia Butterfly Hill [Illustration offered as an anonymous gift :-)]