Authentic Living: Lifestyle
This is the fifth, and last, post in a series on authentic living. If you haven’t already done so, you can read the first, second, third and fourth posts to get a full picture of how authenticity can impact our lives.When we talk about our 'lifestyle', we're referring to our living habits.This includes where we live, how we treat our health, our eating patterns, hobbies, and so on.I believe that we're naturally drawn to do things that are good for us.If we don't, it's because something gets in the way. People aren't born craving french fries, addicted to substances, or as liars, cheats or thieves.So why do we do this?
- Deep down, there's part of us that doesn't believe we deserve to do things that are healthy for us.- We're trying to meet unmet needs, and the only way we know how to meet them right now is through doing things that aren't healthy for us.- We're stuck in a cycle of doing things that aren't healthy, then beating ourselves up about it....and more.Whatever the reason, doing things that are harmful to ourselves isn't living authentically.Beating ourselves up about doing harmful things is also not authentic. When we live authentic lifestyles, we aim to find a balance that allows us to do things that are good for us because we want to take care of ourselves. In the meantime, we notice when we're not, and we show ourselves compassion and curiosity.
Just as we aren't born with behaviours and thought patterns that aren't helpful, we aren't born with the innate desire to have lots of money, to get a 'proper' job, or to live in a certain place.These desires and beliefs come later: some are the result of our genuine needs and preferences, some we are taught by others, and some come from conformity to societal norms and expectations.Doing things just because others say we should, or because it's the 'proper' thing to do, when there's any doubt in our minds that this is the right thing to do for us isn't an authentic lifestyle.What is?Examining all our decisions, working out where our desires and preferences have come from. Looking at our needs.Over the last couple of decades, the self-help movement has spawned a wealth of enthusiastic men and women who tell us we can do anything with our lives, all we have to do is seize the day, live in the moment, and get on that next flight to Acapulco - real life be damned.The thing is, not everyone wants to go to Acapulco. We listen to people telling us that we can go anywhere and do anything we wish (which is true), and we think: "But I don't know what I want to do."Quite often, when we dream of life on a beach somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we don't actually want that. We'd feel isolated after the first few days, amenities wouldn't be that great, and shortly we might find ourselves yearning for the hustle and bustle of city life.If that's the case, why do we dream of this?It's not because we do want the beach life, but because we don't want what we currently have.Compared to our current lifestyle, the beach seems like a better option, but the key to living authentically is to dig deep and ask: what kind of life do I really want to create for myself? What kind of life is going to leave me looking back at my time on this planet thinking that it was time well spent?We are free agents of our own lives, and we can go anywhere and do anything we wish. But the big question is: what will that be?As this is the last post in the authenticity series, I have a suggestion:
One of the best ways I know to start uncovering our authentic lives is to write our own eulogy. This is a visualisation exercise that helps take us out of our everyday world and puts our life in perspective.Imagine you are a friend or loved one who is speaking at your funeral, and you're writing your speech in preparation. Start by talking about all the characteristics you embodied in your life, and the values you lived by. Move on to a mini-biography, giving highlights from the last 50 years - what you did, where you went, who you loved, special experiences.While you're writing, notice what images come into your head, what feelings you have, and how this eulogy compares to your current life.Revisit your eulogy weekly - if not more frequently - to remind yourself of what's important. Life is a process, and we're constantly shifting, so write yourself a new one every six months to reflect your changed values and goals.