I’ve often said how important authenticity is for a person to be happy and successful in life. Heck, “Be Authentic” is one half of my motto. Encouraging people to be true to themselves is part of my core message largely because I’ve found so much happiness in adhering to that principal. The more authentic I am, the more content I tend to be. But, what exactly does it mean to be authentic? The fact is, authenticity means different things to different people which is incidentally the exact reason that we tend to stray from our authentic selves. There are however a few universal truths embedded in the concept that must be part of any process of self-actualization. They include (perhaps counter-intuitively for many) service to others, self-care and development, and personal responsibility.
Tip: Avoid thinking self-righteously, and strive to serve only out of love and care for others. If you happen to inspire people, great. If not, remember that you’re building both the person you’re serving AND yourself.
I’ve found a much greater measure of happiness in life as I’ve learned to be authentic. I recognize that I’m different from other people in thought and behavior. I am what I am and you are who you are. Work to honor that! Serve others, work to build yourself and always take responsibility for your actions. You have so much to offer the world as yourself, not in trying to be somebody else.
The other day I watched my one year old nephew walk clumsily around, holding my dad’s hand for support. He’s clearly not a proficient walker; he had to rely on his grandpa’s help to get safely up and down the small set of stairs up onto the patio. Fortunately for my nephew, his lack of skill doesn’t prevent him from trying. In fact, in his own way he’s quite mobile, and with the constant practice he’s getting better. As a child, he hasn’t been brainwashed into thinking he can’t. He continues to work at it without shame or embarrassment at his frequent failures. We can apply the same tenacity to learning any new skill or concept if we simply embrace the struggle and accept that at first, we’ll suck.
That period of struggle is very real anytime we try something new. We’re simply not automatically good. There’s a commonly shared idea that suggests that it requires 10,000 hours of practice before we’ve mastered a skill. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but the point is that it takes time and effort. If you want to grow, you MUST go through the sometimes painful process of growth.
The first public speaking course I had in college was memorable for a number of reasons, but there is one in particular that stands out. A young man, clearly nervous and extremely apprehensive got up to give his first speech and noted his struggles with public speaking. He said that as a boy he was asked to speak in his church on the biblical story of Jonah. He was so anxious that he forgot to mention the whale! Still, he pressed through and finished not only that first speech but the course as well. He accepted that he wouldn’t be good at first, but he was willing to move forward from that starting point. And that’s exactly where we’re at: the starting point. Being at the start means that we’re probably very far from perfect. With that in mind, here’s a few ideas to help you move from the start, to wherever it is you want to be.
Friends, if you want to experience true growth in your abilities and gain confidence in yourself, it’s time to embrace the suck. Learn to crawl, then walk, then run. When embarrassment creeps in because you’re worried about what others think, you must be persistent in reminding yourself that you’ve got nowhere to go but up. Remember, the greatest experts in the world all started as novices. Be willing to start at the bottom and work your way to mastery. Do it over and over again in as many areas and with as many things as you have a desire to learn. Do that, and just imagine what you’ll be capable of in 10 years.
A number of years ago my family and I agonized over a decision that seemed so daunting and life altering, that no right answer seemed obvious. We had several job offers that could take us to Kansas City, Missouri or back home to Southwest Washington State. As my wife and I went back and forth, a kind friend offered this piece of advice: “Often, there is no wrong decision. You could go any direction and they’ll all take you down different paths and each of them could be right.” Basically, what he was trying to tell us was that once we’d made a decision, not to second guess it. A decision made consciously and deliberately yesterday, is very likely still the correct decision today. Beating ourselves up over what didn’t happen is counterproductive at best. That line of thinking holds us back because it dwells in the past. Unless circumstances have changed dramatically, what was right yesterday is still right today. Still, people tend to second guess themselves, often regretting a choice that felt right only moments ago.
Now, I’m not suggesting that there aren’t legitimate bad decisions that sometimes need corrected. Typically, when one alternative is bad, we know it before the choice is even made. I’m talking about competing “good” decisions. What is it that so often causes us so much uncertainty in those areas? Its human nature I suppose; we want it all. To combat the sometimes hopeless and almost always negative feeling of second guessing a decision, I’ve found the following practices to be helpful:
These simple strategies can help you develop a more confident mindset which in turn will help you become more confident in your decisions. As you learn not to dwell in yesterday’s choices, you’ll find yourself developing a more positive and hopeful attitude. Subsequently, you’ll find a greater measure of productivity and success in life.
When you think of the word resistance, you may think of being resistant to illness, or resisting an urge to do something that may bring you bodily harm. Maybe you think about those elastic bands at the gym, or how water resistant your new gadget is. While these are all forms of resistance that can help us remain healthy or protect us and our possessions, not all resistance is there for our benefit. In fact it can be downright destructive.
You see, resistance loves to work overtime, sending us constant messages, “protecting” us from harm, but also from fear, embarrassment or any uncomfortable situation that may arise. Everyone has dealt with this type of resistance at some time in their life. Most of us on a daily basis.
The problem with this type of resistance is that often times it is keeping us from things we should be experiencing. It can keep us from accomplishing goals and dreams, or even from setting high goals for ourselves. In this sense it is our worst enemy. It disguises itself as rational thought, but in reality it manifests as fear, self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, self-sabotage, guilt, etc. Resistance is always with us, it never sleeps, it’s always lying and we must battle it daily.
Any pursuit you have will inevitably illicit opposition, whether it’s getting out of bed in the morning or climbing Mt. Everest, resistance will show its ugly head at some point along the way.
Let’s walk the path of resistance for a moment. First, you have an idea. An amazing idea that you are proud of, have excitement and enthusiasm for, and your first instinct tells you “Hell yes! I can do that! I am going to do that!” It’s backed by drive, passion, love, and the knowledge that this idea is coming from your true self. But then we hit the second phase: resistance. It tells us all the reasons why we can’t or won’t accomplish what we’ve set out to do. “You’re not strong enough, you are too old, too young, you don’t have enough resources, your friends and family don’t think it’s a good idea, you’re not smart enough, what if I make a fool of myself?” This list could go on and on, and often, in our head, it does. Whatever form it takes, the goal of resistance is to keep us from doing what we set out to do.
This is where our battle begins. We have to fight against the lies and limiting thoughts that threaten to impede our potential. How do we do that? As Stephen Pressfield says in his book Do the Work, “Stay stupid” and “Be arrogant” I know, that sounds awful. I don’t want to be stupid or arrogant either, but here is the logic behind what he says. You need to be stupid enough to set goals that seem crazy or impossible, then be arrogant enough to believe you can pull it off! So many of the world’s greatest achievers were first thought of as crazy because of how far they thought outside of the box. Consider people like the Wright brothers, Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson or any world leader whether good or bad. They all pushed through resistance in all of its forms to get to where they wanted to be. They were too dumb to quit and to stubborn to back off.
What made them different than any of the rest of us? I guarantee they encountered struggle along the way. They just learned how to battle it. They were able to quiet those defeating thoughts and keep them at bay.
As I was talking with my husband about this topic I was telling him about a time when I felt resistance. I had decided to go to night school. I was excited about the opportunity to learn, to grow and to practice in a field that highly interested me. I was enthusiastic and had the complete support of my family. After enrolling though, I had such a huge wave of guilt come over me. “Was I doing the right thing” “In my already busy schedule, could I sacrifice the time away from my kids?” Then came even more self-defeating thoughts. “Was I even smart enough?” “Would I be able to handle the work load?” I was being bombarded by resistance! As I was talking through this my husband asked me this simple question. “Can your excitement and enthusiasm exist in the same time and place as your fear and guilt?” I thought about that for a moment and decided that, no, it couldn’t. When I’m in the moment of feeling passionate and enthusiastic about my learning and growth, I don’t feel the burden of sacrifice, or the guilt and fear of inadequacy. They fade far into the background.
It can be hard, but in order to battle resistance we need to focus on the initial passion and excitement that we have for our project or idea so that the resistance can’t exist in the same place. It will inevitably take the stage sometimes, but don’t ever let it steal the show!
Think for a moment what you could accomplish without anything holding you back. The possibilities are endless! Fighting through resistance can be painful, but the alternative of giving up will have a much more negative impact. Is it possible that resistance is keeping you from being your authentic self? From setting and accomplishing life goals? Fight through the fear, doubt, guilt and embarrassment. Conquer your resistance in whatever form it comes.
My daughter also recently read Steven Pressfield’s book. She then made a poster that now hangs above her desk which reads “On the field of the self, stand and knight and a dragon. You are the knight, resistance is the dragon.” I love passing by and seeing this reminder. I encourage you all to press forward and conquer your dragons, to be a little arrogant and stay stupid!