Living authentically

Enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon with friends recently, conversation turned to more personal topics and soon some pretty honest sharing was happening. I found myself feeling so privileged to be part of these friends’ lives and privy to the depth of sharing that was taking place.

It is an amazing thing to be among people who live authentically and are willing to reveal more of themselves than what is on the surface.

So what is authentic living? What does it look like and why should we aim for it?

Well, for me, authentic living does not mean telling every single person you come across, your deep dark secrets. I think it has more to do with being true to your beliefs, about life, yourself and the world.

But that’s hard sometimes. We want people to think we have it all together, for others to look at us and, dare I say, envy us. We to project to the world the ‘us’ we would like to be.

Sometimes, that’s a good thing, if we are trying to be a better person. Sometimes the only way to make that happen is to do it until it comes naturally.

But other times, we need to be ‘real’ with people, as much for their benefit as ours. Being real, and honest about who we are, is liberating. It frees us up to share a burden, or own up to a truth about ourselves. It frees others up to be who they are, with no pretence or shame. Revealing that we don’t have it all together, allows others to open up about the areas of their own life they are struggling in.

To live truly authentic lives means to live with integrity and a certain amount of knowledge about ourselves. I admire people who live transparent lives, who know enough about themselves to be honest about who they are or honest about the circumstances they are dealing with. I am a long way from it, but being with authentic people edges me closer and closer after every encounter with them.

We are never fully grown. We can never say we have ‘made it’. There is always something new to learn about ourselves; always some area that could do with improvement.

And what better environment to confront ourselves than in the company of authentic people.

What does living authentically mean to you? Who do you know who lives authentically?

Where are you going?

My husband and I went on a date the other night. We left our 21 year old in charge and although I trust the children implicitly (cough, cough), when it was time to go into the movies after dinner, I sent off a quick text asking if all was okay at home. He, of course, joked that it wasn’t and thus ensued a text war.

Now, simultaneously, I am a multi-tasking woman after all, my husband and I had a conversation about both going to the bathroom before the movie started (bear with me).

So. I am texting away, following my husband to the toilets preoccupied with the texting and at the last minute, realise I have followed my husband right to the door (read: almost smacked into it). I stopped abruptly, which caused the line of men behind me to do a very comical, cartoon style ‘bump, bump, bump’ into each other. (On a side note, were none of them wondering  why I, a woman, was on my way to the mensroom???? Do I look like a man??? Anyway, that’s beside the point.)

I apologised to the man behind me, and the man behind him and the man behind him (I gave up by about then – it was a long line!) before turning red-faced into the ‘ladies’, barely able to contain my giggles.

It struck me later, as I filled my husband in on the antics outside the mensroom while he was inside the mensroom, that I need to concentrate more on where I am going.

And then that made me think about life (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?). Because I was so caught up in chatting to our son, I missed a vital turn off I should have taken. Just like in life, we can be so busy paying attention to other things, that we allow our natural momentum to carry us along, without actually looking where we are headed.

Now, there was nothing wrong with talking to my son, just like many of the things we get caught up on in life aren’t wrong but they can cause us to veer off the track of where we want to be.

We need to be constantly checking the horizon of life to make sure we are still heading in the right direction. Otherwise, we just may end up somewhere very different from where we intended. And it might be a tad more embarrassing than walking into the mensroom!

Bad habits, resolutions, goals and real life.

Everywhere I look on the net at the moment, there are articles and blog posts about new years resolutions, goals for the new year and ‘top ten tips’ on how to make those changes, and quite frankly, I’m sick to death of them all!

I hate new year resolutions. I very rarely make them and if I do, it is half-hearted and they never, never stick.

We start out with grand plans and mid way through January or February (if we’re lucky!) we are back in our old habits of eating too much and exercising too little etc, the only difference being we now have an extra layer of guilt to lug around with us for the year.

Nope. I just won’t do it.

What I do find fascinating about all this is ‘habits’, how they work and the theories around them.

According to some sources, and generally held public belief, it takes thirty days to form a habit, good or bad. Great. Except it’s not true.

About seven or so years ago, I rose at 4am every single morning for spiritual betterment and some ‘alone’ time. I did this for over two years. And then, I don’t even know what it was, but something interrupted that and…poof! Good habit gone, bad habit well and truly back. I have tried since then to re-instate that particular habit but to no avail.

I also, last year, exercised every day for over three months. Then, same story, something interrupted it and that was it. Over.

Now, the unfortunate distinction here is that the bad habit of not exercising or not getting up when I would like to, easily sticks after only one or two days!

I am pretty certain I’m not on my own here, so why do we form bad habits so much more easily than good ones?

I think the reason might lay in the inherent make up of our species. We have a natural propensity to find the easiest, least effort inducing way. We are constantly fighting our inbuilt lazy gene. This, coupled with our tendency to pander to our feelings, creates an environment that is perfect for growing and sustaining bad habits.

This trait has been very useful to us as a race in general. We wouldn’t have any of the modern inventions we have today if it weren’t for the lazy-gene. Admittedly, these inventions wouldn’t have happened without some hard work, but that’s beside the point and doesn’t suit the purposes of this post. 🙂

Have you ever heard in an advertisement for a product that says “This will not be faster or easier and you won’t feel very good doing it”? No. I haven’t either.

It carries over into our interactions with others, too. The easy way in relationships is quite often not the best way. Being courteous, kind and considerate doesn’t come naturally to us. Left to our own devices, quite the opposite is the reality.

It’s all about doing things with intent. I have to actively make the decision to get up early or to exercise. With no actual decision, I will take the easy route. I have to intentionally make the change, whereas, a bad habit I can slip into quite naturally.

To create a great relationship with another person, I have to intentionally think of that person before myself and look for ways to enrich their life. Naturally, I am selfish and am looking for ways in which they can enrich my life (and be ready to tell them exactly how to do it!).

Maybe once we recognise that we will nearly always take the path of least resistance, whether it be exercise or showing our love for a person, we can begin to work on making our ‘natural’ self a bit more like our ‘intentional’ self, and just maybe some of those good habits will stick around more than the bad ones.

So maybe the only resolution I should make this January is to live more intentionally, and not be ruled by my lazy-gene and my feeling-gene. How about you?

Shake it off

Welcome to 2012 🙂

I have decided to shake off 2011. I’m not often pleased to see the back of a year but for so many reasons (some of which I talked about here), I am this time. Look at it, learn from it and then push on into all the glorious possibilities of a fresh-out-of-the-box year, is what I am going to do.

So with that in mind, when I recently saw this sign in a shop, I took it as, well….a sign (sorry, couldn’t resist).

This is what it said:

Life. Find a passion and pursue it. Fall in love. Dream big. Drink wine, eat great food and spend quality time with good friends. Laugh every day. Believe in magic. Tell stories. Reminisce about the good old days but look with optimism to the future. Travel often. Learn more. Be creative. Spend time with people you admire. Seize opportunities when they reveal themselves. Love with all your heart. Never give up. Do what you love. Be true to who you are. Make time to enjoy the simple things in life. Spend time with family. Forgive even when it’s hard. Smile often. Be grateful. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Follow your dreams. Try new things. Work hard. Don’t count the minutes, count the laughs. Embrace change. Trust in yourself. Be thankful. Be nice to everyone. Be happy. Live for today. And above all…make every moment count.

Kinda says it all, doesn’t it? If each one of us took on just one of these for this year, the world would be a better place. Why not pick out one or two and try living with that in mind? You never know what might happen!