I started a journal last year with a single question posed on the first lined page, “How do I live a more authentic life?” The expanse of pages stretched out before me. I doubted I had enough to say to fill the small bound book. But, to my great surprise, I filled those pages.
Every. Last. One.
With notes in the margins and print curling around the edges; asterisks, circled phrases, and arrows signaled some of my most important insights.
Here’s what I learned:
A Place of My Own
1. I’M NO LONGER WAITING TO REMOVE THINGS FROM MY LIFE THAT DON’T SERVE ME; I’M ACTIVELY CASTING OFF THE STUFF THAT IS HOLDING ME BACK
Pruning back the clutter has cleared away space for me to focus on what is most vital. I wanted a space for me. To be. My office was full of my kids’ toys, old papers. I didn’t recognize much that was my own. Over the weekend, I removed the things that were getting in my way, literally (and figuratively) to create an environment where I can think, reflect, and thrive.
Sorry, Not Sorry
2. I’M NO LONGER WAITING TO REPLACE NEGATIVITY; I CAN EMBRACE GRATITUDE INSTEAD
I realized I apologized a lot. “I’m sorry, can you help me?” “I’m sorry, I have a question.” I’ve been replacing my “I’m sorrys” with “thank yous”. Instead of “I’m sorry I need something from you.” I’m saying, “Thank you for allowing me to ask for what I most desire.” Instead of saying, “I’m sorry to burden you with this.” I’m saying, “Thank you for taking the time to know me and listen.”
Perfect is stifling. And it makes it hard to breathe with all that crushing (imagined) expectation.
3. I’M NO LONGER WAITING FOR PERFECT; I AM FOCUSING ON WHAT IS POSSIBLE
The price of conformity is that everyone else likes you. But you. Often, perfection feels impossible. For me, this had been letting go of perfection means also letting go of who I think I am supposed to be. Or who I think others want me to be. And being who I am. Without apology and with gratitude (see #2). It’s also focusing on the possibilities and having the courage to try something new, even if it doesn’t turn out perfectly. It’s beautiful in the trying.
When truth is unspoken, eventually, it becomes unspeakable.
4. I’M NO LONGER WAITING TO SPEAK MY TRUTH; I WILL TRY TO SHARE AUTHENTICALLY IN EACH CONVERSATION
This one’s a doozy. I realized that not telling people the truth to shield them from disappointment and keep them comfortable, is an unkindness. Telling the truth, even if it creates discomfort, is a kindness. Not propping people up has created a space for more profound honesty and growth in my life. Nugget of truth: There is a truth within myself I want to honor more than I want to honor not upsetting people.
The Time to Shine is Now!
5. I’M NO LONGER WAITING FOR MY MOMENT; THE TIME TO SHINE IS NOW
Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. I had a vision of Thought Leadership Thursdays (#TLT) in 2016, and I wrote “TLT” on my office white board. Halfway through 2016, someone asked me what “TLT” meant. I could not remember. Losing sight of my own goals was, apparently, a thing. I was waiting for the right time for TLT. My moment. I learned I needed to make my own moment instead of waiting for it to arrive.
Do One Thing Different!
6. I’M NO LONGER WAITING TO BE GOOD ENOUGH; I AM WORTHY TODAY
One of the personal barriers that has been holding me back is believing that I am good enough. I’ve been waiting for the divine moment when I’ll be worthy. Guess what? It’s today. This is happening now. Clearing this boulder of self-doubt in favor of self-acceptance has been scary. As much as my belief of not being enough was holding me back, it also kept me safe. Because I didn’t have to change. Change bring uncertainty. Sometimes uncertainty brings fear (see #8 on vulnerability and fear).
“When you really want something, it is because it emerged in the soul of the world.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
7. I’M NO LONGER WAITING FOR MY OBLIGATIONS TO CLEAR; I AM EMPOWERED TO MAKE NEW CHOICES
I noticed that I was living my life from the perspective of “should”. As the late Albert Ellis said, I was “…shoulding all over myself.” The person I believed myself to be was the sum of my check marks next to items on my to-do list.
I decided I wanted to live a more amplified life. I wondered, if I was given a terminal diagnosis with six months left to live, would I be making the same choices? The answer: No, I would not. So I started making new choices that didn’t come from a place of obligation. In the words of Mary Engvall, I am becoming the “flippers” on the pinball machine, not the ball. I don’t want to accept the default of “have to” anymore. Instead, I’d like to think about how I can choose more fun. Choose to be more daring. Choose to be less complacent. And in doing so, live better.
Continue to become what you are becoming
8. I’M NO LONGER WAITING UNTIL I HAVE A SAFETY NET TO RISK BEING SEEN; VULNERABILITY MEANS BELIEVING I WILL FIND A SOFT LANDING
This risk is helping me be more congruent. In other words, for my inside self to match the self on the outside. This is not one and done. You know that. It’s an awareness. It’s hard. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong. For me, it looks like this: acknowledging the lump in my throat and still opening my mouth to speak. It’s a head nod to fear standing in my path and the determination to keep walking anyway. Fear will squelch every good thing if you let it. Don’t let it.
Asking for help is hard. It also creates deeper intimacy.
9. I’M NO LONGER WAITING UNTIL IT’S ALL HANDLED; I’M ASKING FOR THE HELP AND WISDOM THAT SURROUNDS ME
One of our senior leaders told me to ask for more help. This meant I had to do something difficult for me: Articulate my needs, and then, gulp, be brave enough to ask. I had bought into the myth of self-sufficiency. So what happened? I received more guidance and support that I could have imagined. I’m better off and so are our leadership programs with the involvement of more invested, thoughtful leaders who desire to give back. Have I been turned down? Absolutely. Each time that happens, it gets a little easier, and I resolve to keep asking.
I'm the only one who can take care of myself.
10. I’M NO LONGER WAITING FOR EVERYONE ELSE TO BE CARED FOR; I’M PUTTING MY HEALTH AND HAPPINESS FIRST—NO ONE ELSE CAN DO THIS FOR ME
In 2016, I was going at a clip that was not sustainable. I was taking care of everyone else first. Answering all my emails. Then, recharging myself second. Some of my colleagues used the word “workaholic”. My Uber driver gave me advice on self-care. That’s when you know it’s bad. When your Uber driver feels compelled to give you advice.
I understand now my body and health are gifts. Self-care is about prioritization, not about doing it all. I’ll continue to learn how to integrate my self-care with others needs in 2017.
Authenticity is adjusting the aperture to stay present and aware, and not allow myself to numb or disconnect. This, as these other ten items are, is a work in progress.
Here’s what I know: This is not a dress rehearsal, people.
Every end is a new beginning.
The close of 2018 gives us an opportunity to be intentional and recalibrate.
Say “yes” to you and stop waiting to live an authentic life.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anïas Nin