Authenticity...That simple and that hard.
While with a couple of friends over brunch the other day, I asked in typical Phil fashion,"what's inspiring you lately?"..."What's the big idea on your mind(s)?"
I ask this question almost every day for a specific purpose. I don't think that we, human beings in our society, are conditioned to stop moving enough to actually listen and hear the things that life is telling us. The wind that's blowing past our ears from moving at 110mph everyday drowns it out. Until someone stops you in your tracks to ask a question like this. Then maybe you might think about the experiences in your life, and what they are telling you. And it's fun to see people give 30 seconds to themselves to think about what in life is inspiring at that given moment. If you haven't thought about it, give it a try, but it might take some practice ;)
Everyone at the table gave awesome answers, and then the question got put back on me (which I love). It didn't take me long to start pouring words onto the table about the topic that is at the top of my mind right now....Authenticity. It sounds so simple, and a word that isn't foreign to most of us. But LIVING it is a completely different story all together. That's where things get a little more complicated.
My wife just wrote an amazing post about our intentional living mindset, some of our tactics, and how we seemingly plan forever about how we can grow, change, and align that to our vision. That's all part of the process, for sure, but there's more to it that she didn't mention. It's finding the HOW in living out those spreadsheets, plan documents, and 3+ hour long couch convos. That's where authenticity comes in!
Quickly, the definition of Authentic is this...
True to one's own personality, spirit, or character.
We each have our own unique needs, expectations, wants, desires, hobbies, ways to show love, ways to gain energy, and the list goes on. Put simply, we're all different. It's taken me a tremendous amount of time to figure out the man I am in today's state, and that will inevitably change on me at some point, as it always does. But spending the time doing all that spreadsheeting and intense planning with Krista has given me a chance to reflect on my personal definitions and what my value propositions are in life right now. Once that was put in place, I was able to start picking apart all the little behavioral and activity level things that I felt were aligned or not aligned to that vision. Things like they type of work you do, the people you surround yourself with, the food you eat, the ways you get around town, how activity levels affect you, the way you interact with people, the sleep you get each night, and anything else you can imagine that is part of your everyday. Try spending some time here exhausting a "typical" day, and note all the things you did in that 24 hour window. When you've compiled that list, go back through and note how each one of those things made you feel. You might have to dig a bit into memory, but usually it's pretty easy to figure out. This could be some of the best and most foundational time spent on yourself in order to make authenticity attainable. Because before you can come out to the world around you as you, you have to know who you is.
How then do you take what you know and apply it to your everyday? Easy...(kinda)...You have to start making the necessary changes to honor those things you've defined as YOU. This is where the slopes get a little slippery, and most find the hardest part about living authentically. The reason being is that we are all scared and have fear baked inside of us. Fear of not being accepted, scared of being made fun of, or someone telling you that you aren't smart enough. We've all been there at one point or another in our lives. I certainly have, on many occasions even recently. This is a primal instinct that keeps safe and secure as part of the pack, not to be outcast into the wild to fend for ourselves, as we are born as social and community-driven creatures. And it's so easy to fall victim to the powerful emotions when you don't have yourself defined and a vision to align your actions with. Happens all the time. People decide that it's not worth the effort to overcome the fears, and so comfort becomes the ruler of life, which will always find a way to hold you back from what your authenticity is urging you to be.
So you might have defined in your exercise from above that you really feel shallow when you have to talk to acquaintances about the weather. Who wants to ice break or carry on conversation about that? What a waste of time and energy. The next question is...Are you comfortable being the one who can change the dynamic of that dialog, and endure what that person might think once you ask your new question? This, my friends, is where you begin to live authentically. Breaking your list down and starting to work hard to overcome some of those fears and the negative internal voice (your ego) that's telling you it's better to not create that awkwardness, because they might think you are weird. But if you VALUE that energy you are giving, and you HATE the way those types of conversations make you feel, then this should be an easy one to check off the list. Fun fact, the question that got this post started is actually the question that I use to spark conversation today. It was one of my little changes that I made in order to have more meaningful and connected conversations with people.
I've had my own barriers to overcome, and surely they weren't easy. But through practices like this, building constant awareness, and following the beat of my own drum, I built enough momentum to start changing the bigger things in life, things that I never thought would be possible. Coming to the world with the best possible you, and honoring all of the things you've defined as your best, most authentic self, is the best thing that you can do for you and others around you. We all want to witness someone thriving in their own body, mind, and spirit. It's contagious, and we all crave it at our core.
So my challenge for you is to define your list, pick the items you want to tackle, and start intentionally changing how you go about them each day to start living more authentically. Give it a try, because living as the person you want to be instead of the person you have to be makes for a much more fulfilled life.