Authenticity

What does it mean to be authentic?

I’ve been giving this question a lot of thought lately. At its core, being authentic is being true to yourself. Easy, right?

Not so much, it turns out.

Children are the most authentic humans I know. They freely express their emotions – from sheer joy and delight to downright defiance, speak their mind (the wisdom that comes from these wee, little beings is mind-boggling) and have an innate belief in themselves, their abilities and the possibilities of life. “Reality” is not going to interfere with their dreams.

Of course I can be a superhero-dragon-training-fairy princess!”

And if these children grow up with parents that mirror their joy and genius, chances are they’ll continue to listen to their inner voice into adulthood. We should all be so lucky.

But if they have parents that deflect their fragile truth, who don’t affirm their gifts and talents, then slowly it becomes buried as they conform to whatever norms their social circle embraces.

I fall into the latter category. This isn’t about blame. You can’t teach or model what you don’t know and chances are these norms and behaviors have been passed on from generation to generation. I can look at my family dynamics in a detached manner and understand why people acted the way they did. And I can also be incredibly grateful because I broke the mold. It took me 50 years to realize it – I’m the maverick in my family!

Listening to our inner voice is complicated for women because our brains are wired to connect. It’s a survival tactic. In a study that examined the effect stress has on men and women, men went into the typical “fight or flight” mode. Women, on the other hand went into a “tend and befriend” state – protect the children and make friends. There is safety in numbers.

The combo of being disconnected from your authentic voice and the biological drive to connect with others can create a perfect storm – we feel like we are losing ourselves. I know the feeling, I’ve uttered those words. When we aren’t living from our truth we tend to rely on these connections to define us. It’s why we find it hard to end a relationship even when we know it’s wrong for us. We give the connection priority. How can it be any other way? We don’t have the wisdom of our inner voice to balance us.

In me, this imbalance created a need for approval. I feared rejection because without the guidance and support of my inner voice, I didn’t know who I was so I relied on others to validate me. I accommodated their wants and needs even if it went against my own truth (even if deeply buried, your inner truth will make itself known, usually physically – headaches, butterflies, muscle spasms, etc). I felt like I was slowly sinking under.

They key to authenticity isn’t to give up our connections. It doesn’t mean never compromising or accommodating someone else’s needs over our own. We have room to grow and our truth will change. The key is to reconnect with our inner voice.

How do you do that?

Listen.

If you’re truth is buried deeply, chances are that voice in your head is your inner critic so you’ll have to listen to your body. How do you feel? Do your actions or decisions resonate? Do you feel heady with excitement? Are you engaged and losing all track of time? Do you feel expansive? Or, does it feel like you’ve got a mud brick sitting in your gut? Are you dragging your feet? Does it feel like drudgery? Are you unable to focus on anything because you’re too upset? Do you silently stew?

Pay attention to what lights your fire and what dampens your spirit. In order to connect on a meaningful level, you first need to connect with yourself.

Question your thoughts.

Instead of assuming you know what the other person wants and trying to bend yourself in a pretzel to accommodate them, ask. If you find yourself disagreeing, that’s OK. You don’t have to nor should you, agree on everything. If you want a real connection, you’re going to have to dive deep and not just skate on the surface. If you can’t negotiate your differences or you don’t feel safe speaking your truth, you don’t have a real connection and the sooner you learn this, the better. Give up being the designated compromisor. Real, lasting, meaningful relationships are a give and take for both parties.

You’re not for everyone.

Get over the fact that everyone has to or is going to like you. It’s unrealistic. Focus on the people who you like and like you instead of wasting your time on trying to convince someone otherwise. Life is too short to be giving away your energy to someone or something that will not enhance your life.

Accept yourself.

You have nothing to prove. There are no tests to pass. Your mere existence is proof that you are enough. You don’t need anyone’s approval. We are works in progress, accept and acknowledge your gifts and flaws. No one is perfect so quit pretending you are. Our willingness to admit vulnerability is our strength. It’s what makes us human. Personally, I give mine a blankie and some hot chocolate so they’ll be quiet, curl up in the back seat and quietly watch the scenery and while my strengths take the wheel.

When we reconnect with our truth, an amazing thing happens. We mirror and acknowledge other people’s truth, no matter how different it is from ours. We may even be influenced and grow from the experience.

The irony is when we connect from a place of authenticity, it’s deeper and more satisfying than anything we could ever imagine

Inner Peace according to Dr. Wayne Dyer

person-802075_1280Peace of mind. Isn’t it what we all want it?

I picked up Dr. Wayne Dyer’s 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace.

This book is exactly what I need. As an introvert I am always inside my head and sometimes it can cause me heartache. Let me summarize the 10 secrets:

1. Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.  In other words, don’t judge and don’t make your happiness or success dependent upon an attachment to any person, place or thing. You don’t let other people’s opinions or your things (or lack of) have any bearing on your worth.

2. Don’t die with your music in you. Follow your passion. Do what energizes and engages you.

3. You can’t give away what you don’t have. According to Dyer, the universe responds with the same energy we send out. It’s the law of attraction. We manifest everything in our life based on our energy levels. Some people mistakenly believe that if we just send out a list of wants out into the universe that they will magically be delivered to us. It doesn’t work that way, action on our part is required. And it goes deeper than just getting “things”, it’s about our attitude, thoughts and beliefs. We need to believe and practice what we want. If we want love, we need to not only love ourselves but be loving toward others.

4. Embrace silence. Find time to still your mind. Commune with nature. Our lives are too hectic and that hectic energy not only affects you but everyone around you.

5. Give up your personal history. You are not your past. You can’t change it, you can only learn from it. Get over it, take responsibility and move on and don’t let it define you.

6. You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it. Change your thoughts. You get what you focus on so focus on the positive – being more loving, more empathetic, more peaceful.

7. There are no justified resentments. First, remove blame, own your feelings whether you understand them or not. Second, respond with love, peace, joy, forgiveness and kindness instead of reacting from your ego (who is always getting you in trouble because it’s always a contest about who’s the best, brightest, smartest, etc).

8. Treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to be. It’s the “act as if” principle. What do you think a person who is a (insert what you want to be here – i.e. writer) does? For writer you might say that they write daily, they read a variety of things, they subscribe to trade journals, they belong to a writing group, they submit proposals to publishers, they accept rejection as part of the job and don’t take it personally. Then do it.

9.Treasure your divinity. Quit looking on the outside (externally) for your source of strength. It’s in you.

10. Wisdom is avoiding all things that weaken you. Everything you think either strengthens or weakens you. Dyer talks about power vs. force.  “Power urges you to live and perform at your own highest level” Force, explains Dyer is movement and for every action there is a reaction or counter force. Force is a negative energy and is associated with judgment, competition and control. Instead of choosing to “wipe out the competition”, a more peace-inducing thought would be to perform at your highest capacity and give it your best shot.

Got other ideas? Please comment and let me know.

Who’s in charge of your life?

superhero-534120_1280Chances are it isn’t you if you hear yourself saying “I should…”, are a constant clock watcher at work, spend way too much time surfing the internet or watching T.V or are bored, disengaged and generally “living for the weekend”.

That feeling that there must be more to life is a sure sign you aren’t running it.

Be the Creator of your life. Engage in it, don’t watch from the sidelines.

I’m an introvert. I spend a lot of time thinking. I am inside my head a lot, thinking about ideas, concepts, problems, solutions and what I’m going to eat at my next meal. I’ve recently taken action to move my life in a different direction. It was painful and scary but the right thing to do. Determined not to repeat the same mistakes and live in alignment with my passions, values and talents,  I decided to craft a personal philosophy. I hold creative thinking in high regard so I’ve used the word creativity as an acronym.

C – Childlike curiosity –  Invite your inner child out to play and have fun. Laugh. Question everything. “We’ve always done it this way” is lazy thinking. Change is going to happen, you can look at it as an exciting new adventure or let it run you over. Innovations don’t happen by following the status quo.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” – Dr. Suess.

R – Rules – Know them, but don’t be afraid to break them (legally, that is). Or better yet, invent some new ones. Or forget them all together.

“The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.” – Mark Twain

 

“Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations and ages it is the rule.” Freidrich Nietzsche

 

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you” – The Golden Rule

E – Empathy – Before you jump to conclusions or judge someone, put yourself in their shoes. Be open to new ideas, new experiences, new cultures, new people. Get out of your own head and explore different perspectives.

A – Amateur – don’t be one. In Carl King’s book “So you’re a creative genius, now what?” he defines a pro, amateur and hobbyist. You want to either be a pro (you love what you do and work your butt off to create a viable career) or a hobbyist (not interested in money, does it for sheer joy of it). Don’t strive to be an amateur: a hobbyist who is half-heartedly trying to be a pro. As the great Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Amateurs fall in the “try” category.

T – Talents – Know yours and align yourself with them. Invest the majority of your time in them. Sure, it helps to beef up your weak areas but you’ll probably always just be mediocre and as a result, those are not the things that will bring you great joy. When you operate from your talents, tasks become easier and life in general becomes less of a struggle, and even, dare I say, a pleasure.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman.

I – Imitate – Growth (as a human being) is important for our mental well-being and learning facilitates  growth. How did we learn as children? We imitated others. There is a saying “Good writers borrow, great writers steal”. There is a reason that art students copy the masters, not to plagiarize them, but to learn from them. Let’s say you are a salesperson. Watch high producing salespeople in action. What are they doing? What are they saying? What aren’t they saying? What are they wearing? What are their mannerisms? Watch the faces of their prospects and see how they respond. Obviously, you can’t be that salesperson (writer, painter, drummer, etc) because we each have a unique set of skills, traits and talents. Find the essence of that great sales presentation, piece of art, poem, music, campaign, etc, learn from it and then put your spin on it

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” – Eartha Kitt

 

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” – Lloyd Alexander

V – Values – Figure out what your top 4-5 values are and use them as a guide for living your life. My top 5 values are: being connected, learning, design, have fun and appreciation. Funny thing, once I realized how much I valued appreciation (I wasn’t getting any), it dawned on me that I wasn’t being very appreciative of others. Since then, I have gone out of my way to make sure others know how much I appreciate them or what they’ve done. And wouldn’t you know, what goes around, comes around. Not only does identifying your values give you a filter in which to run every decision through, it helps you see your own behavior in a whole new light and when guided by those values, change is a lot easier.

I – Imagination – Use it. A lot.

“You see things; and  you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and  I say ‘Why not?’” – George Bernard Shaw

         

“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” – Steven Covey

 

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

T- Thankfulness – Humans have a bias towards negativity. We overreact to the bad and undervalue the good.  We get what we focus on. If we focus on the negative stuff then that is all we’ll pay attention to. So to get ourselves out of the trap of negative thinking, we need to take time to give thanks for all the good that we have. It’s hard to do when you are chin deep in troubles but you can’t get yourself out of a negative situation with negative thinking.

“When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Anthony Robbins

Y – Yin/Yang – Accept and embrace all of you. You’re a flawed being who can be silly, compassionate, petty, angry, sad, hurt, funny, ditzy, intelligent, thoughtful, loving and everything else inbetween. This doesn’t mean that you  give up trying to be a better person. It just means accept who you are right now.

What would you include in your personal philosophy?

Are reasons just another excuse?

My friend had an interesting conversation. She wasn’t able to attend a class and when a friend texted her with the homework, she replied with the reason she wasn’t able to attend. Her classmate said she didn’t have to give an excuse. In which she replied that it wasn’t an excuse, she was just explaining why she wasn’t there or, then she asked, “Is that the same thing?” To which the classmate replied “Yes”.

(A disclaimer here, when we make a personal choice/decision, we don’t owe anyone an explanation.)

As a coach, I listen for the words that my clients use. Language is powerful and it tells a lot about a person and their mind-set. Changing our language can also help change our mind-set.

So is a “reason” just another “excuse”?

One of the definitions of excuse is: attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek to defend or justify

Reason is defined as: a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event. Another definition is: the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic. I think this latter definition is integral to the first definition.

Some people might use the two words interchangeably but I think there are several distinctions that should be pointed out:

  • An excuse is used to deflect blame and avoid responsibility for our actions. It is outer-driven, we are victims of unforeseen circumstances. Reasons don’t avoid responsibility. A reason shows, and here’s where the second part of the definition is important, our thought process and how we came to our decision/conclusion.
  • An excuse is not aligned with our integrity. When we give an excuse, we usually know, deep down, that we are at least partially to blame. Reasons are in alignment with our integrity.

A good way to tell if you are giving an excuse or a reason is to notice how your body is reacting. When I give an excuse, I can feel it in the pit of my stomach which travels up through my body, like an electric current, to my ears. I feel a sense of…shame is the word that comes to mind. I am uneasy.

When I am explaining myself, giving a reason, my body is at ease. I feel a sense of lightness. I am speaking from my “truth” (based on my beliefs and values) and it resonates with me.

The bottom line is this – what is your intent behind these words? Is it to deflect blame and responsibility or are you owning up to your choices?