Monday, July 6, 2009

A Quest for Authenticity – How Many Lives Are You Living?

For my “Musings-in-a-Minute” version of “A Quest for Authenticity”, please click here.

I am running into more and more people these days who are living two or more completely different lives.

One life is the life of their dreams – passionate and living on purpose.  In this life, they are living their dreams, creating their own companies, making a huge, positive impact on the world.  Many of them are best-selling authors, in-demand speakers or high-powered consultants offering advice to the elite.  Their home life is right out of Leave it to Beaver, the Brady Bunch or some other idyllic family experience.  They live in a world where they speak freely and passionately about their purpose, their faith, their ideals and core values and their vision of the world. It is a beautiful life without fear of anything.

What a beautiful image they weave.

The other life is the life the same people are currently experiencing.  They are frustrated with their boss, their business partner, their client, their spouse, their children, their President or Prime Minister or someone else.  They feel frustrated that nobody seems to care about their vision for the world.  They are afraid to expose their core values, their faith or their belief structure.  They are afraid to stand up and speak out when they witness something that is legally, ethically or morally incorrect.  With this in mind, they assume their own personality is flawed or unworthy and thus they create new personas based on the situations they find themselves in.

Life is challenging enough when you have one life to live.

How do these people manage when they are living two or more lives?  They live one in private, one at home, one with friends, one at work, one at church …. the list goes on.

No wonder people are more stressed now than ever – they are worn out trying to be something that someone else wants them to be.

What’s wrong with us just being ourselves?

As with many things in life, we are either all in it or not in it at all.  This applies to us living our life on purpose, embracing the talents, gifts, resources and dreams that each of us are blessed to have.

How can we expect to establish momentum and traction in life when we are living so many lives at once?  That’s a lot of traction to acquire and will result in a life of complexity and frustration.

Consider these examples:

1. The person who witnesses an illegal act in an organization and chooses to say nothing so that they will continue to be perceived as a team player or so that it doesn’t impact their ability to score some other position they are seeking.

2. The person who joins boards or organizations that are totally out of congruence with their own personal values, but they do so because it “looks good on the resume”.

2. The individual who has a strong faith in God or other Higher Authority but keeps it to themselves when amongst friends or coworkers so as to not be portrayed as a Bible-thumping proselytizer to be avoided.

3. The person who talks incessantly about the dreams they have for self-employment or rebuilding their organization – and years later are still telling the same story after having made almost no effort to put the dream into action.

4. The team leader or company owner who constantly complains about their team in private but publically praises them (praising them because they know that a team’s performance is a reflection of its leader).

5. The people that protect (or even promote) a “look the other way” policy, since they know if someone really knew what was going on in the organization, the person in charge would be questioned as to why such apathy and indifference have gone on for so long.

6. The folks who attain some level of public office and immediately focus on how to get re-elected, forgetting that they are there to represent a group of people.

7. The people who draw too much from their network, expecting everything for free but who feel incensed if the network pushes back and requests compensation for knowledge shared (or the network reaches out to them and asks of their time for free in return).

8. Leaders who hide behind complexity and noise on their projects because they don’t want people to see that there may be something they can’t do.

9. People who promote or teach the “miracle product du jour”, knowing that they are doing it for the money and that they don’t really believe in the value of what they are pushing.

Some people are oblivious of living multiple lives.  Many people realize the multiple lives they are living and for them, this adds extra stress, because they want to escape from those multiple lives – to get back to the core of what they are.

For some reason that escapes them, it is easier said than done.

However, as in many situations, they are driven by fear.

1. Fear of not being accepted.

2. Fear of having a dream that others may ridicule.

3. Fear of expressing an interest, belief or value that others may not embrace or support.

4. Fear of expressing their faith at a time when some people may not find it “cool”.

5. Fear of being perceived as not being in control of their life, be it personally, professionally or otherwise.

6. Fear that we have only one whack at something (as in political office) and so rather than being judged on our performance, we immediately set out to assure our continued re-election by becoming vague, fuzzy and not clearly aligned with any issue.

7. Fear of not being viewed as intelligent, good lucking, connected, skillful, empowered or anything else as our peers.

8. Fear of failure, thereby introducing the notion that it looks better to be thinking big all the time than to risk it all and fail. 

Since we are bound up by these and other fears, it is better to portray ourselves as the ideal person in the other person’s eyes.  That way, you feel more comfortable with the “new you” since it seems to draw accolades from others.

Guess what?

We will attract people much more in congruence with who we are when we express our true self – when we are authentic with ourselves and others.

After all, if we are not our true selves, how do we know that any of our relationships are authentic?  There’s a good chance that our relationships with different people are as artificial as the personalities that we created in order to be connected with them in the first place.

We discover how real or artificial our public personas are when we need help.  If people vanish when we need them, there’s a good chance we have not built our relationships on solid, authentic values and belief systems.

Why would we want to create a life that is that complicated?

Isn’t life complicated enough?

As Scott M. Peck wrote in The Road Less Travelled, the opening line is “Life is difficult”.

Given that life is difficult, why don’t we choose to live one life ?

One that allows us to embrace and maximize our gifts and talents.

One that allows us to live by our core values, not someone else’s.

One that will occasionally cause life to be pretty scary but will produce more powerful results, important learning lessons and rich memories.

One that will have a greater potential to leave a positive legacy on this planet, since I doubt that any of us are dreaming of a life of smaller results than we are currently experiencing.

One that allows us to live by our faith if that is an important part of our life.

One that may produce fewer relationships but relationships that will be stronger, higher quality and more authentic.

When we reveal our true self, we attract people and circumstances that are more in alignment with our core values and belief structures.

When we do this, we live one life, a much simpler concept than multiple lives.

That’s not to say that this automatically makes life easy.

However, when life gets complex, if we are living by our core values and are aligned with others with similar values, it helps to know that we should push through because the results are worthy enough to persevere for.

If we are pushing something that we are not in alignment with, then we often wonder why we should bother.  After all, we may be pushing for something important for someone else and not for ourselves – living a life for someone else.

If that’s the life we want to live, then we should select a person that we are living our life for and ask them if we can leave their name on our headstone when our end-of-days has arrived.

We might as well, since we lived their life based on their values, beliefs and expectations anyway.

Wouldn’t it better to be remembered for who we are and not for how we reflected the best of someone else?

Exactly – so what are we waiting for?

Yours in service and servanthood.


For my “Musings-in-a-Minute” version of “A Quest for Authenticity”, please click here.


  1. Harry,
    One of the problems with living authentically is the mistaken belief that our lives should look perfect. You clearly talked about that in your blog.

    If we're not attracting the money, career, amazing partner, or beautiful house, it may mean we're flawed. On the other hand, we are all flawed as humans yet perfect as souls.

    I suggest that we give ourselves one day when we honestly share with everyone around us how we really feel and think. If I am having hardship, I share it. If I feel loving, I talk about it. If I am frightened, I face it openly. If I feel childish, I reveal it. This then encourages each of us to be more fully human and more authentic. When we acknowledge who we are to someone who acts as a witness of our experiences, we, in essence, authenticate our life.

  2. Hi Leonard,

    What a wonderful post - thank you.

    I agree 100% with what you say.

    I also see a double standard in the world. If everything seems to be going your way and then you struggle, it seems like it is taboo to be authentic - people say "you have no right to complain because ...". When Trump had his issues years ago (and even now), a lot of people say "he deserves it".

    The truth is that he is a human being with hopes and fears like all the rest of us.

    I guess the other double standard I don't appreciate are the one-wayers .... the ones who, when you ask how they are doing, dump their world on you (which is ok, since you asked) but when you in turn need to share with someone in return, find the person who dumped on you doesn't want to receive your worries. They only want to put out to receive help - they don't want to receive messages where they may be called upon to help others.

    It's a selfish form of victim mentality - "your problems are nothing - you should see mine".

    I think when we become more authentic, our life will actually become easier to live (once we get used to the social awkwardness we have been trained to experience as a result of being authentic).

    I think I'll write up my authenticity list. :-)

    Thanks for sharing, Leonard!

    Take care and create a great day!