The First Step to Living Authentically
When you’re like me, and you’ve made a lot of your life choices based on what you think other people’s expectations are for you, waking up to the idea of living authentically seems revolutionary. It feels like permission to actually do what you want to do, to make choices based off what resonates with your soul.
If you’re also like me, though, you very quickly realize you have no idea what you actually want to do.
This time last year, I found myself on the fast track to a promising business career, severely over-committed (but gosh darn it would it make for an impressive resume), and totally unfulfilled. Any free time I had, I spent laying on the couch watching Netflix, because I felt like a shell of a person, drained by everything else I had going on with no idea what to do with my “free” time.
I remember being asked what hobbies I had and staring blankly with no acceptable answer. (Hint: Netflix shouldn’t be a hobby)
The following summer I did an internship, where I sat in a cubicle for eight hours a day making phone calls. I have never been more miserable in my entire life. The concept of working to sell something in order to essentially make money for someone else higher up did not resonate with me at all. But, this was the life I was setting myself up for. It was time for a change.
I realized I wanted to finally follow my heart. But I had a problem: I had no idea what my heart was telling me.
Living authentically seems easy enough. Be true to yourself. But our authentic self becomes muted into silence as we try to shove and force it to fit a mold of cultural expectations. I thought I could have the best of both worlds. I picked something I felt passionate about (agriculture and sustainability) and tried to fit it into a mold of “success” as determined by culture expectations.
But it doesn’t work that way.
A few weeks ago I sat down and tried to make a list of my values, of what in life is important to me, and of what I want to get out of life. And I discovered I had no idea. I’ve made some pretty radical 180-degree changes, so clearly something in me knows what it wants, or at least is guiding me away from what I don’t want, but I’d lost any sense of what that was or how to listen to it.
I spent time journaling and thinking about it, reading through lists of values and came up with some that really resonated with me. A working list of those values is now written on a sticky note, stuck to my bathroom mirror. For now, when I make choices, or I’m trying to figure out if something resonates with me I think back to that list.
But, I also know, living authentically isn’t static. I’m never going to find the perfect five values that will guide my life from now on. The same way I can’t pick the perfect mold of success right now and expect my life to follow that path perfectly.
Living authentically is about being aware.
I’m way more aware now than I was a year ago, but the goal is to be a little more aware than I was even yesterday. Striving to be in tune with what fulfills you is the first step in living an authentic life. It’s being in a constant state of awareness of how you fit into the world and what resonates with you.
How authentic of a life are you living? Can you identify, right now, what values are important to you?