Living Authentically: The Genuine You

It is the unique combination of talents, personality and experience that make each of us vital to the whole. We sometimes cover up the “real” us; maybe someone once said we were “a bit too much” when we were little or we’re worried that we won’t be accepted if we show up fully ourselves. Of course, these are just notions that don’t serve any good purpose for us or the world. And while it’s true, that we can’t just let it “all hang out” during a workday, we can show up for work with our most authentic self in place.

The way to live more genuinely, is more about a both/and vs. an either/or approach to life. Here are 5 helpful both/and suggestions for living authentically:

1. Be deliberate. Roy Baumeister, professor of psychology at the University of Florida, states that “authenticity consists in being aware that you have choices and consciously choosing what you do.” A large part of living an authentic life involves being aware of your ability to chart your own course and responsibly choose your behaviors.

2. Don’t be too deliberate. Without this seeming like a completely contradictory message, consider how you can be intentional in your behaviors without over analyzing and over thinking everything. You want to be centered within an intuitive understanding of who you are as a person. Mark Leary, psychologist at Duke University explains that “people often make better decisions when they don’t think about them too intensely. Go with your gut. Authentic reactions are much more at a gut level.”

3. Mindfulness practice (of course)- Deep attention creates moments of happiness not contingent on outcomes or external factors or manipulation of the environment. Mindfulness meditation enables you to become a curious, accepting, and nonjudgmental observer of your experience. When you are truly connected to the present moment, there is less attachment to needing certain outcomes or trying to control the way things are. It puts things in perspective and increases connection with the whole of life.

4. Cultivating Solitude. Peter Kramer, a researcher at Brown University notes that “Quiet and time for the self are a big plus. If you’re worried about inauthenticity, there’s nothing like shutting the door.” While people differ on their individual needs for the amount of quiet time needed to relax and recharge, the benefits are many. And with the warm weather, you may want to take advantage of a little “forest bathing”, a Japanese practice of meditation while walking in the woods. In addition to the many known benefits of spending time outdoors, studies suggest that when you’re in nature, the trees and plants emit oils called phytoncides that enhance the immune system.

5. Stay Connected. The idea is to find the right balance between reflective solitude and connection with others that is healthy for you. You can learn a great deal about yourself and your strengths through carefully examining your interactions. Try noticing how you show up in relationship with others. If you are tired or irritable more than you would like, you may just need 15 to 30 minutes alone to recharge. You may just as easily find that being with friends, family, and coworkers lifts your spirits and inspires. Simply be aware of what you’re in need of in any given moment. While we may be positively affected by external factors and forces in our life, it is always wise to check inwardly with ourselves too.  

With practice, these hallmarks of living genuinely become true for you:

    Feeling open to your moment to moment experience without distortions, denial, or self-invalidation.
    Living a fully awake life in the present moment, feeling a sense of dynamism and not being static.
    Deep trust in your own intuition and ability to self-direct your own course in life.
    Feeling the freedom and ability to respond, rather than react to experiences as they occur.
    Adopting a creative approach to life, demonstrating flexibility rather than rigidity and closed-mindedness.
    May you start wherever you are, today.


Minding the Questions

IMG_1373Much of skillful leadership involves asking great questions…and really wanting to know the answer. Today’s question involves a disciplined awareness and an inquisitiveness on your part:

What’s Needed Most Right Now, at a Time like This?

This is a worthwhile question; worthy of bringing your attention to- a refrain to ask yourself with curiosity from time to time throughout each day. You could choose to even make it a practice.

The response to this question may at times feel like nothing special: make the oatmeal, get gas, or bring an umbrella. But don’t let it fool you. When we become more present to the mundane, we are vastly better equipped as we respond to what’s needed most right now in the complex and fast changing situations of our professional and personal lives. Simply orienting your life fully and completely to what is required of you as a unique individual brought here to this particular moment has the possibility to bring more growth and more calm into your life than many hours of trying diligently to figure it all out.

And for that matter, one of the many benefits of choosing to still the mind and body in the first place is that it assists with consistently answering this question with insight, intelligence and ease.

What’s Needed Most Right Now, at a Time like This?dreamstime_13130519 (1)

I don’t know what “at a time like this” looks like for you right now. I don’t know what many tasks are waiting to be completed or how many people are calling your name and waiting for a response. I don’t know if you are carrying a recent loss or cares over illness (yours or another’s) and how it’s informing your workday. I don’t know if you are unadulterated in your happiness this morning as you begin this Monday. But you do. Taking into consideration what’s most important right now has much to do with the circumstances that are inextricable to this moment. So remember to bring a gentle awareness and appreciation of this as well.

And this question is not for you alone. As part of an organization, as members of a leadership team, answering this critical and fundamental question again and again with precision, as a group, creates a clarity of vision. Together, seeing what’s most important right now increases the likelihood of that alignment of sight. From that perspective, the possibilities are limitless.

“Er”, “Um”, “Like”: Mindful vs. Mindless Speech

I stumbled across a creative and innovative practice this morning that is worth sharing. It incorporates mindfulness into our daily lives in a way that forces us to actually think about what we are saying and how we are saying it. This simple but challenging instruction brings an immediate and positive shift to how we are in the world. 020206_trdp_s6 (1)
The exercise is to become aware of the use of “filler” words and phrases, and try to eliminate them from your speech. These are words such as “um”, “like”, “well”, “you know”, “kind of.” I have been told that one of mine is “by the way.” You may already know what yours are, or perhaps haven’t given it any attention and are somewhat unaware. These phrases can shift overtime for us but underlying them is the question of why we use them. See if you can notice what is happening when you do. Where are you when it happens? Is it an ingrained habit? Are you giving a presentation and there is some anxiety? Do you feel like you are entering a difficult conversation?
photo_468_20080904This is not easy. When you first begin to practice in this way, you may be shocked by how much you use these filler words. This habit tends to be strong, so remember to be patient with yourself. It can be helpful to enlist friends and family to point out when you are “doing” it again. Bring lots of friendliness to yourself, even smiling softly as you notice the tendency and practice this intentional thoughtfulness. To give a little perspective, Jan Chozen Bays in her wonderful book, Mindfulness on the Go, reports that “a typical teenager uses the filler word “like” an estimated two hundred thousand times a year!”
Filler words seem to serve several functions. For instance, Bays says, “They are space holders, telling the listener that you are going to start speaking or that you are not finished speaking yet…they also soften what we say, making it less definitive or assertive.” You can imagine how this tendency can hinder us in all areas of life, in particular our work life. If you are trying to win the hearts and minds of a client, your team or coworkers, ending your presentation, “So, anyway, I, you know, think we should, basically, kind of go ahead with the project” doesn’t quite move or inspire.
branch4The most effective speakers, the ones that are truly inspirational and effect change do not use filler words. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, we recognize this kind of clarity when we hear it. Conversely, lots of “ums” and “sort ofs” obstruct the listener from hearing you in subtle and not so subtle ways. They can make the speaker sound less intelligent, less competent and dilute the importance of what is being said.
We could point to our modern culture with its relativistic bent as the cause of the increased usage of filler words. Decades ago, speaking in this way was not commonplace. Yet no matter the catalyst, with mindful attention we can choose to do things differently.
We can speak clearly, concisely and without couching our wisdom and knowledge. With mindfulness, we refrain from harmful speech. You begin, as Don Miguel Ruiz instructs in the First of his Four Agreements to, “Be impeccable with your word.” It takes patience, kindness and yes, practice. And it has the power to open wide the gate of communication with others and illuminate your own path.070711a7017 (1)