Image courtesy of Mi Minhaz from Pixabay
Approx. 4 minute read
Welcome to part four in the series of Practical Tools for Improving Your Mental and Emotional Well-Being.
In this article, we’ll cover Choosing Authenticity and Living Your Priorities.
Authenticity: Being true to yourself, living your beliefs (regardless of the situation), and accepting your imperfections.
Authenticity is how you decide to Show Up in the world.
It seems easy enough. Unless you live a ‘chameleon-like’ life, as some do.
It’s not easy being green (as Kermit the Frog would say). It’s not easy being an authentic person in a mainly inauthentic world. There will be strong opinions and judgment from others when you don’t conform to societal, cultural, or familial norms. Often, people don’t want your truth if it differs from theirs. They prefer hearing from and being with those who agree with how they think and what they do.
However, being an ‘authentic you’ means being a ‘consistent you’. You’ll find it easier to resist the urge to change how you’re behaving based on the situation or people. Others will recognize that you ‘walk your talk’ (you live your beliefs).
Authenticity is not a goal, but a vow. A goal is obtainable and measurable. A vow is something to strive for, a continuous journey of improvement.
You will have good days and not so good ones on the journey to authenticity. However, once you have chosen the characteristics of who you wish to be, then you’ll always have that to turn to, even when life throws challenges at you.
You will feel more at ease, more confident, and you’ll experience less worry about what others think of you. What’s important is what you think of yourself when you look in the mirror.
Let’s talk about how it’s done.
Authenticity can be defined by your principles, character traits, and values. Your authenticity is your ‘code of conduct’ as to how you choose to conduct yourself as you experience life.
Principles and Values: Beliefs, which influence your behaviors.
Character Traits: Your attitudes and how you interact in the world (your behaviors, the outcomes of your principles and values).
Principles/Values: Fairness, integrity, honesty, open-mindedness, diligence, perseverance.
Character Traits: Self-control, optimism, gratitude, optimism, good listener, confident.
Put yourself in ‘the shoes’ of someone close to you. How would they describe you today in terms of your principles, values, and character traits? Be honest.
Now, describe your desired ‘authentic you’. The ‘you’ that aligns with and best supports your desired emotional state(s). Remember, it’s a vow, not a goal. If you’re having difficulty, think of the qualities of a person you admire and would like to emulate.
Once you have your authenticity defined to your satisfaction, you get to choose what it looks and acts like, every day. You have a vow of authenticity to aspire to. Reflect (especially during uncomfortable situations) to see how you’re adhering to those values, principles, and character traits.
Keep checking in on yourself. Keep ‘fine-tuning’ your authentic set of beliefs/values/principles and character traits. Don’t be discouraged. It will take time to build momentum and consistency. You have the power, and responsibility in how you Show Up in the world.
So many people live a busy life. They don’t have time to relax, take care of themselves, see family and friends as much as they’d like, or delve into their hobbies.
I used to be like that. I was always busy, rushing from one thing to the next, at work or at home. What was next on the list?
Estimate where you spend your time in a typical week (list the top ten items using percentages). Be brutally honest. Include time spent commuting, at work, sleeping, taxi service for your children, TV, surfing the internet, etc. . . . These percentages are your ‘actuals’.
If you’re like the ‘prior version’ of me, it can seem difficult to get to the important items on the list. However, somewhere on the journey, someone pointed out to me that my priorities are where I spend my time (and money). It took a while to wrap my head around that concept.
Now define the top five priorities in your life. Consider these your ‘desired’ priorities.
Compare the two lists – ‘actuals’ vs. desired. Where are you spending your time? What’s out of balance on your desired list (items you want to spend more time on)?
Any surprises? I had one when I first did this exercise while in an addiction recovery center. Every single person in my group had the same experience. In our top five priorities in life, not one person listed their addictive behavior. Not one. Even though that is where we were spending the majority of our time (thinking about, doing, recovering from).
It’s a common outcome of this exercise. A lot of folks discover they are not spending enough time on their top priorities. And the items they are spending most of their time on aren’t that important.
The COVID-19 situation is bringing this understanding to a lot of people. It is forcing individuals (and societies) to acknowledge what is really important to them.
Now, if some of your desired priority items aren’t getting the time you’d like, review the low importance items on your ‘actuals’ list. What non-important items can you exchange time for with your desired items?
Some items, like work, were not a high priority for me when I was younger (not as enjoyable as reading or playing with my children), but they supported my highest priority – my children’s well-being. Once I made this connection, work became a conscious means to an end, instead of a daily grind.
Some questions to ponder . . .
- What is your highest priority at this point in your life? (Note: priorities change over time as circumstances change.)
- What other priorities support your primary priority?
- What things are you spending time on that don’t support your highest priority?
- What would happen if you stopped doing them?
Here is an excerpt from my novel, The Shift Squad, where ‘Teach’ Neil and the students discuss priorities in relation to the fictional character of Stan whom they are reading about.
“The charts show what Stan spent his time on,” said Anna.
“Yes, Anna. But also,” Neil said, pointing to the diagram, “it shows us what his priorities were. Were his priorities in or out of balance?”
“Out of balance. He was gorging on work,” Tim said, bringing one hand then the other to his mouth as if piling food in.
“What areas of life did Stan neglect?”
“He got pissed off because he wasn’t able to see his kids much,” said Mia.
Kat spoke up with an excited grin, tucking hair behind both ears. “He wanted to spend more time writing.”
“Yeah, he could have used some hobbies and friends,” Eddie said, sending Kat a hopeful smile.
Kat caught Eddie’s beaming grin. Her face went indifferent and she turned away.
“All good insights.” Neil tapped the marker on one circle, then the other. “Yet, these are the areas he chose to spend his time in.”
He faced the class, his hands clasped behind his back. “Stan had wishes, dreams, and goals. He had the best of intentions. But Stan’s priorities were where he spent his time.”
Knowing your priorities, and why they are important to you, will help you make consistent and authentic decisions about spending your time on your highest priorities. Because where you spend your time defines your highest priorities.
Stay tuned for part five in this series, Misplaced Identity.
For a free copy of a comprehensive PDF workbook on these tools and concepts, send me an email at [email protected]. I appreciate receiving your comments and feedback.
For more techniques and tools for your mental and emotional well-being, check out my unique and engaging self-improvement novel, The Shift Squad.
I write to inspire others to greater self-empowerment, authenticity, and improved emotional and mental well-being.
I am the author of the unique personal development novel The Shift Squad.
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Be Empowered. Make Authentic Choices And Enhance Your Quality Of Life.