A current hot catch-phrase in my industry is “are you living an authentic life?” I hear and read that slogan frequently and I always scream in my head what the hell does that mean? Are people running around living false lives? Well in a way, yes. The issue for me is that I think “truth” is a better and more easily applied word than “authentic.”
One of Webster’s dictionary definitions of the word authentic is “representing one’s true nature or beliefs…” While that definition is easy to understand, it can be a hard put into practice. How does one represent their “true nature or beliefs?”
Clearly I do understand the essence of this phrase – that many people choose to not follow their dreams or listen to their instincts, and end up living out circumstances that they never intended or wanted. But my issue is that to live authentically one must first really know and understand who they are and what they want. While some of us enter adulthood already having figured out who we are and what we want (and then spend the rest of our 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s refining that), there is a huge quantity of adults walking around who simply do not know the answers to those questions.
That’s not a criticism mind you, it is a reality that not all personalities are able, or in some cases even willing, to set in stone the life they want to live. There is nothing wrong with going with the wind and currents and just enjoying where life takes you and how it shapes you, if that’s is who you are. So who then, is really living the “authentic” life? Is it people like me who have things all mapped out and goals firmly being adhered to, or is it those who fly by the seat of their pants? I think what it comes down to is if you are happy with the life you’re living. After all, either approach can leave a person feeling unsatisfied and/or lost.
To me, what’s truly important is honesty. Are you honest with yourself and those around you – honest about who you are and what you want? Honesty can be much more easily applied to one’s life than authenticity, don’t you think? Perhaps then, the better way to state the catch-phrase would be “are you living an honest life?“
To that end, I leave you with the true essence behind this posting: if you are not living an honest life, if you are not being honest with yourself, remember that life (or time) seems to zip by very quickly (you know the other old catch-phrase life is short). Now I know how hard it is for many of you to be honest. Honesty is sometimes scary for while it’s freeing for the deliverer, it can be painful for the recipient. But honesty, as we teach our children, is always better than the burden of lying (or in this case, living a lie).
So dig deep, don’t let fear stop you, and start being honest. Remember to take baby steps, and be patient, it will get easier, and that honesty must always be delivered compassionately (that includes to yourself). Honesty is the most powerful tool to altering your life’s course. Take heart in those that live an honest life for they demonstrate that when we live an honest life, we are at the very least, happier and able to breath just a little bit better.
I believe the idea of a “mid-life crises” first came into prominence in the 1970’s, stereotyped by men in their 40’s buying sports cars and/or leaving their wives for younger women. Soon women too displayed their versions, having plastic surgery on faces or breasts, and/or having affairs with younger men. This was brought about in such large numbers due to baby-boomers realizing that they had been pigeonholed by the fiercely established routines of the post-depression era generation into living lives of college, marriage, career, and retirement, whether they wanted that life or not.
Throughout the decades this concept has changed slightly by progressing to different ages/decades – for a while people in their 50’s – now 30-something’s. I think the reason for these “crises” occurring earlier now is due to the tangential nature of our current generation.
To me the idea of a mid-life crisis is simply the realization by someone at any age that they’re not living the life they really wanted or intended. For some, they feel unable or unwilling to manifest a significant change so they simply partake in a small “acting out” in one area of their lives. Whether it’s purchasing a sports car, obsessively picking up a new hobby, or dating multiple partners, these little actions shake things up but don’t necessarily rattle one’s entire cage. For others, a complete left turn occurs. Some go back to school, switch jobs/careers, move to new Cities or States, get divorced, etc.
Why I’m examining this concept is that what I see since mid-life crisis became a coined term is people letting life lead them until they finally snap and decide that they want to lead their lives. Unfortunately, many people do not do this in a well-thought out manner. They react to their emotions and roll the dice taking any new direction as better than where they had been. Sadly, the new direction, while different, may be no better a fit.
As a life coach I counsel my clients to always change what is truly not working for them (or to use a trendy buzz term “not living an authentic life”), but to do so with a plan. Soul-search and come up with what is the better choice for you and your life. Be it a new career, or a new place to live – come up with an idea and then sit with it for a little while. Mull it over, review the pros and cons. Once you’re certain, then outline the most direct path to achieving that change.
Rocking your boat too quickly often results in too many aspects of your life spiraling out of your control. While you may want to get off the ship you’re on, you should do so in a way that doesn’t drown you.
If any of this resonates with you, and you’d like more help in facilitating major changes in your life, please feel free to contact me.