Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wanted! A little good old-fashioned, genuine authenticity!

“Authenticity” has been at the forefront of my mind for a few weeks and I have been thinking about its role my life. This week in home school, we are learning about “success” and “failure”. The speed at which the proverbial “rug” has been yanked out from under many unsuspecting folks due to the global economic crisis has left more than a few of us confusing bad luck and extenuating circumstances, with personal failure.

As our economy crumbles and our government continues to abandon common sense and founding principles, my world has been shaken to the core like a 10 point earthquake. As a result, I have stopped trusting what I once trusted, I have stopped believing in things I once believed in, and stopped assuming that everything will be okay if I work hard and plan well. The last time I remember feeling so “shaken up” and uncertain about the future was after 911. That’s a scary place and many of us, unfortunately, are here again.

We all have our own ways of dealing with crisis. I have found myself resorting to my favorite coping mechanisms; protectionism, personal accountability, and self-reliance, topped off with a healthy dose of prayer and positive thinking. I am creating my own personal “stimulus package”. At the coverage of the nationwide tea parties, I noticed a woman with a protest sign that read, quite simply, “I can stimulate myself, thank you!” It was just priceless and so well stated. And what must one do to stimulate oneself? I know what you are thinking, but this is the G rated version.

About two years ago, I realized that the lifestyle I had spent decades creating, wasn’t working for me anymore. My habits, my focus and my day to day life no longer reflected my AUTHENTIC priorities and values. In fact, the gap between the two resembled the Grand Canyon. What could I do? I decided to be like Madonna, and reinvent myself. After a thorough and “authentic” self-audit, I was left staring dazed and confused at a blank canvas called “my new life”. This confronting scenario triggered a temporary onslaught of fear, panic, anxiety, stress, sleeplessness, nausea, procrastination, denial and avoidance topped off by a strong (but unfulfilled) craving for brightly colored little pills.

Being an artist by nature who has faced a few of these blank canvases, I have learned to view them as divine opportunities to create something of beauty that will inspire others. This requires a certain mindset about success and failure and a belief that life is simply a reflection of a series of choices.

The words “success” and “failure” are the labels of meaning that we assign to the results we produce in our lives. Sometimes, the results are tremendous and we delude ourselves into thinking we are “da bomb”! Sometimes those results are horrific and we delude ourselves into thinking we are deserving of “da bomb.” Either way, the danger of labeling a result as either a “success” or a “failure” is that it directly influences our often fragile egos. If we have “succeeded”, it may go to our heads which causes a false sense of security and complacency. Likewise, when we fail, it goes to our stomachs causing discomfort and disease. We become paralyzed with fear, and have a difficult time functioning. “Analysis paralysis” thrives in this environment. That is the state in which many of us have found ourselves. Deep breath…

In order to bypass my own delicate ego, I am learning to remain emotionally detached from the results I produce. I don’t mean to imply it is okay to deny or avoid the consequences, (especially the negative consequences) of my actions. Ultimately, to be the best I can be, I must accept full responsibility for what I create in life. I simply mean, that I am learning not to view my own results in terms of “success” and “failure.” When I manage to do this, I can take a more “authentic” look at my life, make better choices for myself and progress confidently in a new direction.

A business associate who is reinventing himself recently asked me for some coaching on how to best position himself during his own “reinvention”. He was of the opinion that he needed “smoke and mirrors” to enhance his credentials. My advice to him felt very “Faith Popcorn-esque” as I shared my observations about the growing trend towards authenticity that is appearing on everything from food labels to cleaning products and the clothing we wear to the books we read.

It went something like this… “Almost everyone, from the poorest of the poor to the wealthiest of the wealthy has been affected by this crisis. Having been cheated, deceived, beguiled, mislead, and duped; either by ourselves or by others, we are now wary of formerly “trusted advisors”. Nowadays, if people sense even the slightest hint of personal misalignment, confusion or lack of clarity in another, they will “dis” (disengage and disassociate) and move on. In other words, if they can’t clearly understand what is on the label and inside the package, they simply don’t want it.

We are skeptical and impatient, desiring a return to simplicity and truthfulness. We are being challenged by deteriorating personal and global circumstances to rise to a new level of authenticity. While this may be painful in the short term, it’s a glorious chance for redemption in the long term. Don’t let a good crisis go to waste. Be authentic, beginning with yourself!

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