How To Lead An Authentic Life
Word / Tim Roberts
Here’s a realisation that can radically shift the way your soul relates to your life, your work and the world: In order to create the external life you want, you must truly create the internal life you need. It’s simple yet bold, but if you have the courage to commit to this, your life will change and you will feel alive.
You may have been taught to over-focus on the external aspects of life — career, finances, security, promotion, reputation, conformity — at the expense of your inner vitality, zest, creativity, meaning, sensuality, generosity and what might be called your “heart-fire” or life force. This distortion of human expression leads to what some Indigenous traditions term “soul loss”: feeling dispirited, or a vague sense of pervasive emptiness. “Soul” here relates to your unique essence, the deeper, unique you.
Soul loss is at epic proportions in our society. You will know people who appear conventionally successful, but this masks meaninglessness, sadness, confusion and a sense of lingering alienation. You might be in this situation yourself. So many people are desperate to rekindle their soul but don’t know how.
Legendary jazz musician Charles Mingus said, “In my music I’m trying to play the truth of what I am.”
Do you dare to discover your own truth?
The vitality thieves
Life is like a river of molten lava: always glowing and flowing. It’s only behind the moving edge that lava cools and solidifies. A common error I have made in the past is to fixate on the cool certainties of life while ignoring the heart-fire of creative intuition. I call the tendencies to fixate on certainty “the vitality thieves” –
- Being over-cautious and over-controlling.
- Acquiring what you don’t need and then fearing you may lose it.
- Opting for predictability over spontaneity.
- Getting hooked on busyness at the expense of purpose.
- Staying in a job that’s dull rather than expressing your flair and passion through work.
- Staying in submissive, safe, people-pleasing patterns because that way you won’t rock the boat.
The signature challenge
The signature challenge of our times is to live a flowing, authentic life; one that’s true to our deeper natures and respectful of our planet. Yet we endlessly collude in ways that deaden us, making deals with ourselves so we can ignore how empty our work and life feel.
If you recognise this in yourself, realise that you are trading away your soul, which is life force itself. The term “life force” is apt because, the closer you come to your deeper aliveness, the more force you may have with which to live. There is something in our soul though that confuses a predictable routine — even an oppressive one — with comfort. This is the comfort of repetition and, if we get trapped in it, it’s a sure sign that we are missing the point. The comfort of repetition can also act as an anaesthetic that enables us to carry on causing harm to ourselves, others or our environment.
12 questions that change everything
Over the years, I have found the questions that follow to be powerful ones to consider. The questions are full-hearted and to be savoured, lingered over — they lose their potency if rushed or answered half-heartedly. Once thoughtfully analysed, these questions can coerce you to build resilience.
- Where in your life have you deadened your uniqueness?
- Where in your life have you domesticated your wildness?
- Where in your life have you stopped speaking with your authenticity?
- Where in your life have you been tolerating too much dullness?
- Where in your life have you been withdrawing from being fully yourself?
- What truly brings your soul alive?
- Where does life seem to be asking you to step closer to it?
- What might life want to express through you?
- What are you prepared to let go of?
- What it the old story of your life?
- What is the new story of your life, the one that’s starting to unfold now, and the one that feels most alive and vital?
- What needs to happen within you for people to be able to connect with your soul, gifts and talents so you can do more of what you love?
8 “unrules” for the heart
Once you’ve worked through the questions above, consider the eight points that follow. If you make these into rules you might use them to beat yourself with, so hold them gently.
Fulfilment. There’s a difference between fulfilment and success. You can be successful and yet inwardly bleak because you find life or work unfulfilling. On the other hand, you can be highly fulfilled and not outwardly successful. Become friendly with your version of fulfilment.
Fear. Fear is wisdom; so respect it. Become intimate with your fear because it will educate you. Ask your fear what is it trying to preserve; for example, it may be trying to preserve the status quo or it might be trying to preserve your fullness of life.
Dare. This can be found on the other side of fear. Daring is bold, courageous, enlivening. Don’t confuse it with its shadow side, which is reckless or destructive. When you dare, there is always a risk. Always dare kindly, never berate yourself for not yet daring to dare.
Play. Through play, you relax, and when you relax you emerge out of your busyness into a sense of stability and joy. Perhaps we exist so life can play through us. Play more, in big ways and in small ways. Be playful, be positive, smile and laugh.
Give. Offer your considerable strengths, gifts, talents and, above all, your caring soul to others. Receive what others offer you with gratefulness and childlike joy. Give simply, receive simply. This is not about giving to get something back. This is about letting your inner richness pour through you to others.
Inspire. “Inspire” comes from the Latin inspirare, meaning breath of life. Every time you are inspired, something that life has hidden inside you wakes up and recognises itself in something outside you. Nourish yourself with regular inspiration and help others to be inspired, too.
Nature. You are nature. You are not some separate entity. Your body and your consciousness will respond at a deep level to being in nature. In many cases, your thinking, worrying mind will slow, your body will relax and intuitive insights will naturally emerge. These insights may have been trying to get through to you for some time and immersing yourself in nature opens you up to them.
Mystery. We need mystery to live into fullness; too much certainty dulls us. You started in mystery and you’ll end in mystery. We don’t really know what will happen next. We don’t even know who we are. You are simply mysteriously present and being lived by a soulful force you can’t understand in a world of infinite beauty. Live close to mystery because it will refresh and heal.