I don’t care how left brained and analytical you are, most people will agree that we each have different preferences and abilities for the endless buffet of choices in our fortunate lives. When we can spend time on things or activities where we have interest and competence, we tend to be happier, more satisfied, more engaged and successful at that activity. Tasks are just easier when they’re pleasurable and you’re doing them for own your personal satisfaction.
How does that relate to authenticity? To me, authenticity refers to harnessing your strengths, interests, values and natural inclinations to do what you do best and enjoy doing the most. You might say that what you enjoy most is watching TV and eating Doritos. You might even argue that the TV/Dorito routine is what you’re most talented at. Ha ha. Funny guy. Don’t quit your day job.
The problem with that scenario is that you’re not exercising your strengths or following your natural inclinations or values. Yes you might be interested in the show and tired and want to veg out. But what do you like to do? What makes you feel fulfilled and alive? I don’t know about you but TV and junk food makes me feel quite the opposite, especially given what’s on TV these days. I will literally feel sick, tired and achy if I overindulge in that routine for very long. The same is even true for a lazy beach vacation. Yes, I can lounge around and eat and nap for days at a time… until I can’t any more. I need something more.
In the end, we’re creatures that yearn to grow. Sometimes we don’t know how/what/when. We used to know. When we were really young, we rarely if ever complained about being bored or tired. We were ruled by our curiosity and we did what made us feel happy and alive, not just sated. That is our authentic self.
I recently wrote about rediscovering our authenticity by excavating our past. The excavation exercise is designed to help you move away from your prescribed, play-by-the-rules adult self. Both my child and adult-self love cooking and dancing: I can dance and cook (not simultaneously) for hours for I am in control of the challenges of each activity. But the answers don’t always lie there. After all, they are not my calling. If the excavation exercise is not enough, it may mean there are more layers to unravel.
We can find our adult versions of those moments of authenticity by identifying those incidents where we lose track of time, feel fully alive and engaged in our activity, and feel a sense of mastery and control. Being able to do this part of the exercise successfully means allowing yourself to let go of your preconceptions about who you should be, what you should want, and how you should act. Let’s suspend the “shoulds” for this exercise and just reflect on your peak experiences, your moments of joy, your flashes of brilliance. I know you have them. What enabled you to do that or feel that way? What part of it was the most satisfying? When do people tell you, “wow, how did you do that?” or “you should do this for a living.” Excavate now your current life.
These are your breadcrumbs to your passion, your authenticity. Follow that trail regardless of where it goes, at least in your head. You don’t have to make any changes in your life right now, but give yourself the gift of starting that exploration and seeing what you find.
Now tell me. What did you discover about yourself?
All: Don’t forget to send me questions or topics you’d like for me to discuss. Go either to this blog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Talk to Susanna link on the left. Thanks! Look forward to hearing from you!