Finding your North Star: What are your guiding principles?

The North Star is the brightest star in the Ursa Minor constellation and is commonly referred to as the “Pole Star”. Without GPS, travelers would locate the North Star and use it to guide them to their destination.  This is why we call guiding principles, the North Star. When you have nothing else, it is what will guide you and assist you with completing your goals. When all else fails, you can defer to your guiding principles to help you make decisions in your life.

As a follow up to my blog, Establishing a Baseline for Yourself, I wanted to provide insight into how to create goals that will excite and guide you into the next phase of your life. However, as I was writing, I quickly realized that in order to complete any goal, regardless of how great it is, you would first need to understand your reasons for wanting to complete that goal.

So how did I define my North Star? 
Years ago, I felt like I was in a fight of my life. I was going through a nasty custody battle for my son and during that time, there were people placed in my life that I felt had no boundaries as to how far they would go to hurt me or my son. I knew that for me personally, I feared the wrath of God and established spiritual boundaries that provided limits on how far I would act on my hurt, pain and even vengeance. Over time, those boundaries became more and more rigid. There were things that I would not do and there were things that I would not say in an effort to hurt or cause pain to someone else. I would learn to recognize when people were treating me wrong and force myself to elevate above them – that became my North Star. My North Star is to have enough discipline to rise above those who seek to oppress me or bring negativity in my life.

With this defined, I was able to move forward with establishing goals that were exciting and aligned to my North Star, my guiding principles.

So how do you define your North Star?

Think of a time that you would prefer not to repeat. A time, that sits with you, that was life altering – where YOU had the power to do something and didn’t. It’s a feeling that stirs in the pit of your stomach or the center of your torso; it reminds you that you should’ve done something differently. You didn’t like the person that you were at that time. It pissed you off. It upset you. It embarrassed you.  That moment in your life was life altering and shifted the way that you thought about things, the way that you thought about yourself. That moment defines your North Star.

  • Maybe you saw someone in the street struggling and you didn’t stop to ask them if they needed help. The feeling stayed with you.
  • Maybe you lost your temper over something minimal and you felt like a jerk about it.
  • Maybe you let someone get under your skin and you were embarrassed by the way that you reacted.

These moments define your North Star. It’s the promises that you made to yourself that would prevent or at the very least decrease the likelihood of you ever feeling whatever way you hated feeling ever again.

Taking the examples above, write your North Star in a declarative format:

  • I will do my best to make time to help those who may need an extra hand or those who are unable to help themselves.
  • I will identify what irritates me and understand why it irritates me.
  • I will not allow others to control me. I will not allow others to disturb my peace.

Keep in mind, that you may have several guiding principles and that is ok. Your guiding principles may change over time and that is ok, too.  Write them down and keep them at the forefront of your mind. Your North Star serves as a compass as you try to define and work towards your goals. It is what recalibrates you if you veer off track; it serves as your conscience and it should resonate with you to the point where you respect it above all else.


WoMan vs. the Universe

Sometimes things don’t go quite as you plan.

As you all know – my husband’s birthday was Friday (in case you missed it, see Birthday tribute) and typically we do pretty nice sized birthdays. One year was a trip to Dallas to see the Cowboys play in their season opener – my hubs is a huge Cowboys fan (Go Ravens!). Another year was a weekend trip to the Big Apple. The most surprising year – for me anyway – was a house party – complete with a DJ, bartender, and a custom made Dallas Cowboys cake compliments of The Kitchen Empress. (This also turned out to be my surprise engagement party!)

I say all of this to say – I don’t slouch when it comes to birthdays and this year was no different.

Here was the plan:

  1.  Mom was going to take the baby to see my grandmother who lives down South and my oldest was to stay with my sister. (My middle child stays with his Mom in another state.)
  2. I booked a room at the Gaylord hotel.
  3. I reserved dinner at the Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse at the MGM Casino.
  4. On the morning of his birthday, I planned to cook him one of his favorites for breakfast.
  5. Last but not least, we would then head over to Spa World for a day of massages before checking into our hotel.

I told him to pack a bag and anticipate greatness!!! Mama had a plan!


Ok so maybe “greatness” was reaching. The day started at 6 am to the wake-up call from our 9-month-old baby girl. This was our first birthday with our daughter so already, I hadn’t quite factored this into the plan. Whoops!

Mom came over to the house the night before to pick up the baby and get on the road but ended up staying the night. My oldest decided that he wanted to go but had a bit of an issue with leaving that night – he had a friend stay over and leaving without him was a non-starter.

Now with 6 people, instead of the original two for breakfast, we had to pray that this food multiplied like Jesus’s 5 loaves of bread and 2 pieces of fish. We had sweet potato waffles (Hubs loves anything with sweet potatoes) with eggs, bacon, sausage, and scrapple with a little orange juice on the side. Low and behold – breakfast was a success! It reminded me of growing up when my family from NC would come up and we would fix breakfast for 15. Le sigh – I digress.

We finished breakfast around 10:00 am and lollygagged for another two hours before it was time for folks to start the journey to grandma’s house.  Mom then decided, at that very moment – bless her entire soul, to ask my sister if she wanted to go down, who of course said “yes” but didn’t get off until around 3 pm.  So long story short, Mom and family left for my sister’s house around 3ish and Hubs and I followed suit commencing the birthday extravaganza bonanza – five hours behind schedule!

No sweat. Being the project manager, that I am, I decreased scope and struck Spa World from the day’s agenda and headed straight to the Potomac Mills Outlet. Now let me explain, we loveeeee the Outlets. It’s our happy place and my hubs especially love Potomac Mills. However, traffic had other plans so we activated our contingency plan and headed to Tangier at the National Harbor.

Finally, back on track and focused on the celebration – I went ahead and told him to pick out a head to toe outfit for this evening, make sure that it was suitable for a five star and versatile enough for us to cut a rug after we feasted and gambled the night away. However, the Universe had other plans. Less than an hour into our shopping excursion, Tangier experienced a power outage and had to close the doors to all of their stores. Meanwhile – I’m like, you have GOT to be kidding me! (not to be confused with Game of Thrones ha ha ha -I’m a nerd)

With no outfit for dinner, we decided on a casual Ethiopian restaurant located in Old Town Alexandria but first, we needed to check into our hotel.

Let me just start this off by saying that The Gaylord is absolutely beautiful with some amazing views of the Potomac River. Okay, that’s done. We must’ve brushed up on the wrong side of the lady who checked us in because she had the worst bedside manner and a plain ole’ ugly attitude.  Apparently, since we checked in at 6:00 instead 3:00, the hotel ran out of King sized beds and stuck us with a double complete with a view of the top of buildings, three trees and a couple of houses. When we asked was there anything that we could do to get a better room with a King she said – nope. When my husband asked if anyone canceled their reservation – she said nope. When we asked to cancel our room, she said ok but you will still be charged.

Now don’t get me wrong – it is what it is. They were busy, we were late and we didn’t request a king but her lack of empathy pissed me off! It’s like – lady, act like you care! I could’ve saved a couple of hundred and stayed home. Anyway, we went to our room dropped our bags off and headed out to dinner but couldn’t get out of the parking lot because we didn’t know that we needed to add parking to our room! :: face palm::

Once we pay the $12, NOW we are able to head to dinner!

Can you life saver!??  Hawi’s Ethiopian Restaurant was everything and more! I highly recommend it and the owner was such a pleasant soul to encounter. He really made the experience and truly saved the day!


Coming off the high from dinner, we were feeling a bit optimistic, so we decided to head over to Macy’s for an outfit. We thought we would save a couple of bucks and pick up some spirits to pre-game to in our double bed hotel room before we had some serious Casino action.

Ha ha ha ha ha! The Universe again told us to sit down and quit being cute. So because my sister and our oldest son went with my Mom, we paid our “couch son” (our sons best friend) to walk our dog – once that night and once the next morning. Well – he never showed up to walk the dog, so to end our night, we made the 45-minute track back to our house to a lab mix who thought we were never coming back to get him!

Let’s recap, shall we?
Breakfast – Successful in a “the more the merrier kind of way!”
Spa World – Postponed
Outlets – Traffic canceled one plan and a power outage destroyed the other
Hotel – Double beds, no view, and horrible customer service.
Dinner – canceled original plan but plan B was extraordinary
Casino – never made it

After we laughed about how this was like an episode of Seinfeld, we sat at our dining room table (didn’t go back to the hotel) and realized that Operation: Hubs Birthday 2017 was an epic fail. And to think – this man wanted to go back and try his hand at craps -I told him to quit before we end up broke, busted and disgusted! 🙂

We’ll get it right the next time.

Universe – 1, Shannel – 0


Before you quit…

You know when it’s time to leave a company. You get that sinking feeling like you’ve overstayed your welcome or that you’re in a bad relationship where neither one of you want to make it work. Every meeting is a waste of time, every email is “WHAT do you want?”, every call is a “Can you call someone else?” – your heart and mind is just no longer in the game. It’s time to move on to greater pastures and explore the open terrain – there are millions of company’s out there looking for a star like you, right? Of course – but before you quit, chuck the deuces and eat your “good luck” cake, think about completing a few of these tasks:

1. Have a job lined up.

Seems like common sense but when your emotions are in high gear- common isn’t so common. Make sure that you’ve spruced up the resume and yes, even the cover letter, sent it off to some potential employers, received a job offer AND accepted the job prior to leaving. The last thing you want to do is walk out of one stress pit and into another.

2. Have a plan.

Maybe another job isn’t for you. You’ve saved up enough money, fell into an inheritance or moved back in with the parentals so that you can meditate with monks until you find your calling. So what? As long as you have a plan that is sustainable – make it work and stick to it.

3. Exit with grace.

Oh how you’ve dreamt of giving your boss the middle finger or tripping your nosey co worker as they come bouncing down the hallway. I would strongly advise you not to do anything that will disrupt your grace. Don’t burn any bridges and keep your vengeful thoughts to yourself. You never know who you might see or need on your way to the top.

4. Stay in the game.

You’re quitting. You know this and everyone else who knows you know this as well but don’t go out like a quitter. Give your best until your very last day. Make sure that the transitions of your work products are smooth and pleasant. Be present and continue to share your thoughts and ideas. Smile and remain friendly. You never know who is watching you. Be sure to leave a lasting impression even if you have your own selfish reasons for doing so.

5. Show empathy.

If you are quitting because the work environment sucks, then it should be easy to show a little empathy towards the folks that you’re leaving behind. They haven’t figured out their way out yet, they’re probably just as miserable as you are, and could probably use a kind word or 10. Stay humble and show some compassion. Quit dropping hints about you leaving, about how “they” will miss you when you’re gone and blah blah blah. Even if the work environment is great, your work will still need to get done; folks will have to increase their workload and their productivity levels in order to stay ahead and fill in the gaps. Translation: More work for them.

Being able to quit a job is such a glorious feeling. You’re able to leave on your own terms and on your own time. Make the most of it and make sure that when you do decide to quit that your plan is solid, your reputation is in tack, and your network is reliable. You may want to come back one day – you never know. 🙂