By Kristen Manieri

Marching To Your Own Beat

One of my favorite things to do with the 60 Mindful Minutes podcast is to find guests that are doing life a little against the grain. As you’ll soon hear, today’s guest did not take a typical path. In fact, she still marches to the beat of her own drum.

I met Emily Polar at a yoga/meditation retreat in Marshal, NC in 2013. By that time she had already embarked on her career as a professional photographer and was pursuing adventure travel photography as her specialty.

Fast forward a few years, and Emily is now a National Geographic Travel contributor and has been published in Outside Magazine, Sunset, San Fransisco Magazine, Backcountry and many more. Along the way, she has used her lens to explore how we experience our world and what connects us. She is a brilliant photographer. Gaze through her Instagram feed and you are sure to agree. You can find her at @emilypolar.

These days Emily splits her time between Nepal and the western U.S., often journeying far from home connecting with cultures and perspectives around the world.

I wanted to share her stories and perspectives with you because I think it’s important to experience people who have chosen to live very differently from our western culture and to learn what insights they gain from having such a different vantage point for life.

I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.


  1. First, Emily had loads of talent but maybe even more tenacity. She didn’t lose faith in her path. She never gave any space for doubt. I think mastering our mind so that doubtful thoughts lose their power on us is how we can keep pursuing our dreams without being self-sabotaged.
  2. I loved Emily’s description of being bouncy. I think what she means by this is that she’s untethered. Most of us have jobs and mortgages and bills that tie us to the life we live. One might say that these obligations severely restrict our choices. So, perhaps it might get you contemplating: how could I own less so I could do more? How could I begin to engineer my life so that I had a little more freedom, flexibility and spontaneity? Or maybe, none of that calls to you and that’s just fine too. Living with intention means that we’re not sleepwalking through life; we’re making conscious choices about the life we are creating. We’re living by design, not by default.
  3. Another ‘aha’ I had in speaking to Emily is the realization that sometimes there just isn’t going to be a template for the life you want. Sometimes the life or career or passion that you are dreaming about just doesn’t fit into a pre-existing box, and that can be really scary. But while you might not find someone who has created or achieved what you’re dreaming about, there are all sorts of people with stories of how they have broken the mold. You can listen to such inspiring stories on How I Built This, one of my favorite podcasts.
  4. Honor who you are. For Emily, that’s being un-contained. For others, it may be that they love being at home. There’s not right or perfect way. There’s just looking inside to explore and discover what makes you feel good, what makes you thrive, and then creating space in your life for and boundaries around it.
  5. Finally, it’s worth asking, probably pretty often, what you define as achievement, what your version of success is. If we’re sleepwalking through life, we’ll absorb our culturally agreed upon version of success, which is lots of money, lots of things and lots of fame and recognition. Quite honestly, that’s not my definition of success. I define a successful life by how connected someone is to the people they love, how much time they spend doing what they love and how present they are to the joys of life. Before you buy into the cultural definition of success and start pursuing it, ask yourself: what does success really mean to me? You might be surprised by the answer.


A big huge thanks to Emily for being my guest today. As I mentIoned, you can find her on Instagram @emilypolar and also her website, www.emilypolar.com.

Until next time…

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