Over the recent Family Day long weekend, my family and I spent a night in Whatcom County. It was sunny and clear but there was quite a nip coming off Lake Whatcom. Perfect weather for sitting in a window seat, watching the small ripples chase each other toward the shoreline. I pulled my journal onto my lap while the kids busied themselves with a card game. I figured I’d just dump some of the thoughts tumbling around in my head before making lunch. I didn’t know I would stumble upon an exercise I’d recommend to help you live your authentic life.
Sometimes when I journal, I have a particular thing I want to work out and I just need to see it all physically to make sense of it, to gain some clarity. But that day, it truly was just a moment when I felt like I wanted to take advantage of quiet children and a sunny spot by the window. I started writing random thoughts that piggy backed on each other and didn’t necessarily flow. I start every writing class I teach with this exercise; it’s called a free write. My students (and I) find it a great way to clear out the cobwebs before we move on to other writing tasks. It’s also a phenomenal way to tap into that authentic voice and let it be heard on the page.
After about a page of these random thoughts, I ended up writing this: One day I will look back and think, wow, this is not the important stuff.
The Question To Ask When Wanting To Live An Authentic Life
And no, it wasn’t. I hadn’t intended on writing out anything ‘important’ but clearly, there was a part of me that wanted to. So, I penned: What is important to me? And I wrote down the first thing that came to mind. And then I asked: What else is important to me? And I wrote down the words that described the image I saw in my mind. I continued asking myself, on paper, “What else is important to me?” and each time I saw something pop up, effortlessly, in my mind. I did this 13 times before I drew a blank and felt like I was searching. I decided to quit then because I didn’t want to force anything. Those 13 responses came so easily and felt so right; thinking too hard might have changed the whole experience.
Once I identified the important-to-me things, my values shone through loud and clear: connecting regularly with family and friends, connecting regularly with my faith and Nature, the arts, creating travel opportunities for myself and my family, inspiring others to think about their legacy and their authentic life, and self-care. When I look at these values, it’s easy to see where I need to place my energy and where I can probably take some back. That’s vital; we have a certain amount of energy that we can expend in a given day. Knowing what’s important makes it easier to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t.
I wanted to share this with you so you could give it a try. If it’s not through writing then maybe it’s something else that gets you in the zone. Running? Hiking? Deep breathing with your eyes closed? What clears your mind enough to let that authentic voice be heard?
According to palliative nurse Bronnie Ware, one of the top 5 regrets of the dying is not living a life true to oneself. Answering this question – what is important to me? – might help circumvent that. Or at least, it’s a solid first step.
What is important to you?
I’d love to hear in the comments, if you’re willing to share, 1 or 2 things that are important to you.