Almost exactly a year ago to the day, I sat alone in a hotel room in Bucharest and decided the time had come for me to change my life. I was visiting for work; being part of a global management team that was mostly European based and travelled frequently. Although we were staying in a beautiful hotel, with good food and company, I couldn’t help but feel terribly unhappy. We had spent the day doing a team building exercise to unite our culturally diverse team. But instead of feel united, I felt separated and more isolated than before. Where the facilitators had identified unifying team strengths – being a very rational, ambitious and extraverted group – I was an outlier. I recall with clarity what one of the facilitators said that day: “Sometimes strong teams are not built from differences but rather from focussing on shared similarities.” Although I worked for a great company, and really liked all my team members personally, it was the cue I needed to force me to evaluate what I really doing with my life. I understand now the real reason for my distress: I did not feel like I would be accepted, or add value, as the real me in this situation. It came down to authenticity. I had a frank discussion with my manager later that evening and despite trying my best to give it a second chance, resigned several weeks later with no real plans as to what came next.
The weeks and months that followed were a rollercoaster. I was relishing my newfound freedom but at the same time dealing with over a decade’s worth of burnout from my legal and business career. I was hit with exhaustion, listlessness and, at times, depression. I’d been on the self-help train for years and turned to all my coping mechanisms to get me through this uncertain time. As my body and mind recouperated, I started to give more attention to my next steps. I didn’t want to simply try another role, in another organisation – I was certain, from experience, that it would end in the same way. I wanted to take this opportunity and time out to really evaluate what it was that I wanted to do; something that was authentic to me. I also wanted to do something with meaning and wholeheartedly believed in purpose.
But as the weeks rolled by my anxiety over what my life’s purpose was increased. I tried a few different things from wanting to start a creative lifestyle business to writing a children’s novel to volunteering. But nothing gelled or flowed. At the same time I started legal consulting part time from home. Ironically now that the pressure was off (I had long since made up my mind that it wasn’t my future) I really could just enjoy it. I believe this sudden and unexpected enjoyment came from releasing the power my belief about my career held over me for all those years; the years where I felt like I had to make it work because I had limited choices.
What I now know, with hindsight, was the reason why I couldn’t get anything to flow was because I was still not being fully authentic. I kept believing that I had to do something sensible / reasonable / responsible with my time. Because of that belief I was holding myself back from being fully authentic. I was constraining it.
Only at the point where I recognised the tricks my ego was playing on me, and was prepared to shed my masks and personas, did I connect with my authentic self. What I realised when this happened was that living from a place of our ultimate truth is our purpose in life: there is no external purpose that we need to uncover or seek. Who we are is so much bigger than what job we do, our relationships or lifestyle. Our highest self is vast, mysterious, and totally exciting.
Although I had connected with my authentic self, I still did not know how to actually ‘use’ it in my life. This is when I got creative and came up with a practice to ensure that everyday I could align my life choices to my truth. Being able to exercise free will in this manner has lead me to experience profound freedom and happiness. By living in this way, I have no anxieties or fears over my decisions or future. I know that I will always make choices that are true to me.
The 3 steps are:
- Deconstruct – break down what is really going on by shedding masks and personas (some are surprisingly subtle)
- Connect – take time to connect with your inner voice and highest personal truth
- Align – exercise your free will by making choices that align with your highest personal truth
I have complied this practice together with exercises into an e-book, ‘A Guide to (true) Authentic Living’ which you can download for free on my website by clicking here.
I would love your feedback on the Guide and if you have any questions about implementing this practice, please feel free to be in touch. Over the coming weeks I will share more detail on Authentic Living and provide related resources. If you have not already done so, please visit my website and subscribe for my monthly newsletter.