Tag Archives: authentic living

Loving the Life You Live

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

MasqueHmm. In a recent survey by British phone maker, HTC, 75% of people  said they make their lives seem more exciting (than what’s real) on social media.

That probably isn’t too astounding to believe. It’s been drilled into our heads to not trust what we read on the internet, right? A little embellishment is okay, isn’t it? We expect that, don’t we?

What about this: according to the Society of Human Resource Managers, 53% of resumes have a falsification. Mix into this the fact that worldwide twice as many hate their jobs compared to those who like what they are doing.

How about this: GlobalWebIndex reported that 42% of those using Tinder (an online dating site) were married.

There’s so much more. There is a study or survey on everything.  A lot of it isn’t promising.

Why not? Why aren’t we loving the lives we lead?

Generally speaking we all have something in our lives that is satisfying. Some more than others. And life satisfaction isn’t really tied to money. Granted, having enough than not enough contributes to overall satisfaction, but only fractionally (Gallup reported that of those making $125,000 or more only 60% were satisfied). In employee surveys financial compensation is typically way down on the list of why someone is happy in their jobs.

Early in my career I had worked hard in creating a merger between the organization I led and another local entity. It took over a year to navigate the deal – but once it was consummated, I was named the executive director for the new organization, doubling my salary. And the moment it happened I could feel the emptiness in the pit of my stomach. I knew this wasn’t going to be the right fit. I endured for two years, finally resigning. I began living a life meant for someone else – I was bored, dissatisfied, and cranky.

Thoreau said that most men live lives of quiet desperation. That’s the thing, isn’t it? All too often adversity happens. We make choices in response to that adversity. Suddenly, 20 years later, we’ve lived that life of quiet desperation. Maybe we’re satisfied with certain things – but overall there is a lot of things we would change.

We don’t get do-overs, though, do we? Or…do we?

In doing research I have scanned many many prescriptions for living a life we love. Common themes emerged – some obvious, some surprising. Shockingly, there were a few no-brainers that didn’t make anybody’s list. Maybe I was shocked because the omitted items were things my grandmother, Babe, taught me.

The most basic thing we need to grasp is that loving the life we live is proportional to the positivity of our attitude about life. To that end, here are the pillar concepts:

Live for today, in the moment. Some call this “being present”, Life is lived in a never-ending state of NOW. Life happens NOW, in the moment. Jesus said don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow – there is enough to think about today. Grandma Babe said to take time to smell the flowers (and you may as well pick a few while you’re standing in her garden).

Being PresentBe grateful. Cultivate in your heart a feeling of generalized gratitude by daily considering those specific things in your life for which you can give thanks. In fact, do this: when you wake up in the morning, immediately give thanks that you are alive and breathing. Give thanks for having shelter, food and the other stuff inside your walls. Give thanks for all the people who love you – and whom you love. Do that daily. The gratitude mind-set will seep in. Babe would say, “Be happy you were born in America and not (fill in the fascist country of your choice)”.

Be true to yourself. Sometimes it is hard to drill down through all the ideas about life you’ve adopted based upon reactive choices, or by being influenced by people close to you. But, the treasures are there. You can hear them whispering at the edges of your consciousness. Sometimes they shout at us. Either way, you know. The truth – your truth – is there, in your heart. I’ve written an entire section on this subject in my book, Blazing into the Creative Wilderness. The basic is something my grandmother told me, “Follow your heart. The rest isn’t really worth your time.”

Give. Human beings, at our core, tend to be selfish. We’re focused on our survival. But, there is also this little bit of magic in us that let’s us see others, too.  We begin by giving to those around us, the people we love. For most of us, we receive love in return.  As we grow and gain experience, we learn that the more we give, the more we receive. It isn’t always reciprocal with everyone, but the scales balance eventually. There is an ebb and flow. Babe was a giver. More than anything else, she gave love. Even now, many years after she passed away, she’s still giving to me, and her memory continues to wrap me in her warmth.

Love. It’s simple to say and hard to do. Love isn’t an emotion – it is a choice. It encompasses giving, forgiving, listening, receiving, and so many other things. Grandma was married to my grandfather, Herb, for 55 years. It wasn’t always easy. They survived the depression, world wars, and so many other adversities. But, they had love. Love for each other, for their children, for their community.

Laugh. As Babe told me, it was the secret to being married to the same human being for 55 years.

Love God. Jesus gave two great commandments to His disciples that sum it all up: Love God with all your mind and your heart, and love others as you love yourself. Pretty simple. Despite the secular humanism and relativism that pervades modern culture, by and large the most successful and happiest people believe in God, or at least a universal power that was far greater than themselves. What’s interesting to me is that each of the pillar concepts in this list describe some aspect of our limited understanding of God.

300px-Hands_of_God_and_AdamObviously there are many other things to consider, nuances, things specific to your situation. But, by focusing on these pillars you’ll be well on your way to loving the life you live. Don’t take my word for it – trust Grandma Babe.

 

Is a Spiritual Connection Really Needed?

Does leading an authentic life really require a spiritual connection?

If you are a seeker like me, you’ve pretty much witnessed that every teacher, guru, New Age purveyor and/or life coach has connected authenticity with spirituality. Are they right? Is this a necessity?

There are many that shudder and cringe at the mere mention of “spirituality”. What’s interesting to me is that in conversations I’ve had with friends from differing backgrounds, all too often atheists and Born Agains often have the same reaction to the modern use of the word “spirituality”.

The Godless ones believe we’re just skin and bones with a brain, the ultimate creation of evolution. There is no higher power or spirit beyond self that’s running things. My Born Again friends believe the modern definition of spirituality is much too broad and all-inclusive, a direct contradiction to their “turn or burn” ethos.

Hmm. Where does that leave us?

Most of the successful people I have known did, indeed, believe in some kind of higher power. The attitudes I illustrated above are extreme ends of the spectrum. Most of us dwell somewhere in the middle – and our relationship with spirituality is as complex as it is individual.

Whether it is an all-knowing celestial benefactor, walking on the water messiah, or a pantheon of gods playing dice with our souls, the common theme I have seen is that there is agreement that there is something bigger than ourselves.

And at the core of this belief is a shared experience of morality. From this I find the next agreement: The authentic life is inherently moral.

I think it is best said that, while we are all so different, we share basic agreements about morality. Don’t lie, cheat or steal. Definitely don’t commit murder or commit otherwise senseless violence. Respect another’s property and relationships.

We all pretty much agree on these things. But, beyond the rightness or wrongness of things, there is one practical thing to consider: lying, cheating and stealing simply don’t work.

Sure, anyone can get away with this type of behavior for a while. But, when it is discovered there will be wreckage and chaos and hurt. Separation will occur until the amends are made, a new pattern of behavior is established, and forgiveness is offered. Even then trust may be hard to re-establish.

I have a friend that runs an alcohol and drug treatment facility. He has told me that the main cause of addiction and the horrible wreckage it inflicts is all due to a “spiritual break”. It’s a loss of internal integrity, seeking meaning through artificial means. A facsimilie for real life.

From what I’ve seen and experienced, an authentic life does require a belief in something bigger than ourselves – in fact, I think it requires a commitment to this higher calling. It’s been proven time and again that when we place our focus on helping others get what they want and need, our needs typically are well met. This principle is basic to business success. It’s also true in one-to-one relationships.

So, maybe one definition of spirituality as it applies to authentic living is our connection to that which is larger than us – an unseen energy that we can nevertheless feel in our hearts.

Therefore, authenticity seems to require getting over ourselves, This is a simplistic answer. Throughout this site there are different ways to explore the complexities of leading an authentic, fulfilling life. But, maybe we can agree that having a calling bigger than ourselves is valuable and important.

Does that mean having purely personal goals are inconsistent with leading an authentic life? Of course not. In fact, they are essential! In the next post I’ll explore why this is so.