We often hear the phrases “living in alignment” and “being authentic” thrown around. Most people I speak to appear to believe they are authentic. Who would claim to be otherwise? But what does it actually mean to live in alignment and to be authentic?
I recall my daughter at age eighteen feeling disillusioned when she saw her yoga teacher smoking a cigarette. To her, it did not quite add up. She held this belief that yoga embodied a healthy lifestyle, and smoking did not. She admired this teacher. The “disconnect” seemed to jolt her. We all know life is a lot more complicated than that. But we can also agree, there is some dissonance about this scene.
Let’s not kid ourselves; we all live with some degree of “disconnects.” Where the reality of how we live our lives does not align with what we claim to value. We read about the televangelist having an affair while preaching against infidelity. And what about the homophobic politician, caught red-handed with a male prostitute while campaigning for family values and vehemently against same-sex marriage.
What are your disconnects?
But we all live with some degree of ‘disconnects’ within our lives. We show to the world a very different version of ourselves from who we are—areas within our lives where we talk a good talk, but we don’t walk that same talk. We like to believe we are authentic but are we? And what does it look like? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘align’ as to bring into line or alignment And ‘authentic’ as defined as ‘not false.’ It’s about not being duplicitous.
Duplicity lies within all of us. In what aspects of your life does it show up? We all have areas of our lives where things “don’t add up.” Where does it show up in yours? What do you value? Do your actions align with what you claim to value?
What do you value?
Most adults are not clear about what their top 5 core values are. That’s because we grew with our parents, culture, and the media telling us what is important. Instead of discovering how to listen to the calling of our hearts.
My mother thought I should be a teacher to be home during the summers should I ever have children. Yes, she had my future planned out since I was six! I did complete my teacher training despite having no interest in it. Then I went on to do what I wanted, a degree in English and Economics, subjects that I enjoyed. I did teach for five years. Then I went on to a twenty-year career as a financial advisor.
What are your top 5 core values? Joe Biden said, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your bank statement, and I’ll tell you what you value.” There is so much truth in that quote. How we spend our time and money reflects what we value.
The parent who works sixty hours a week while claiming that he values family time is kidding himself. Ask his kids. Unless he believes that providing for them is how he shows he values them most. Again, ask his kids what they think.
Why narrow the disconnects?
Why would we want to narrow or eliminate the disconnects? In hospice nurse, Bronne Ware’s book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing” she claims that the number one regret of people facing their mortality is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Interestingly enough, the second regret, expressed predominantly by men, was the wish that they spent less time at work.
Aside from living a life with regrets, living a life that misaligned with your core values is living a life that is inauthentic and stressful. Research by Alex Matthew Wood of the London School of Economics and Political Science and John Walby of The University of Leicester supports this. When you look at how you live your life right now, is it aligned with what you value? If not, what areas are you misaligned? Your health? Relationships?
Society trains us to say what people want to hear. To be who what others want us to be. We are too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too smart, too slow. We’re never good enough. And many of us spend our lives, either unaware of who we are and what we need. Or suppressing who we are and what we need.
How can we narrow the disconnects?
- Become aware of who you are and what it is you value.
Most people cannot clearly articulate their top five to ten core values. Do a values assessment to find out what they are. Then ask yourself, do your actions align with these?
- Recognize the glaring disconnects between your core values and the area of your life that does not align with those values.
Reflect on the things you do and say that do not reflect your values. You may say that health is your most important value but keep a fridge full of processed food.
- Become aware of the beliefs around that disconnect.
You may value family, yet spend most of your waking hours building a business. Maybe you believe that the best way to show that you care about your family is to provide them with an income. Challenge your beliefs.
- Take full responsibility, but also forgive yourself.
I truly believe that change happens when we take full responsibility for all our actions. Instead of beating yourself up over those glaring disconnects, forgive yourself. When a friend of mine realized she spent a large portion of her income on fine dining, she was upset with herself. She wanted to save more so she could retire sooner and pay off her mortgage.
- Decide on the person you want to be.
Who would you become if you may the changes to align your life with what you value? A healthier person? A better parent? An emotionally available partner?
- Practice Mindfulness
According to the American Psychological Association (APA.org, 2012), mindfulness is: “…a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. To further elaborate, Jon Kabat-Zin, founder of The Mindfulness-Based Stree Reduction Program, it means “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
“Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment.”
- Take action.
Tony Robbins says, “A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” So, take action by adopting behaviors that support the new you. Become the person without the disconnects. If you claim you value a healthy body, ensure you include daily habits that reflect this.
So, how do we live in alignment? How do we live more authentically? Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have some areas of living inauthentically. Walking towards greater authenticity starts with recognizing and embracing our humanity even within the ‘disconnects.’
Life is complex. We are not always clear about what it takes to propel us to be the person we desire to be. Yet, it’s not perfection that we seek but authenticity. Gandhi summarized it well when he said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
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Through one on one coaching, webinars, courses, and public speaking Jennifer helps individuals and business achieve desired outcomes. For a consultation or help with living in greater alignment, please email her at email@example.com
Books that she has written include Women and Money: 7 Principles Every Woman Needs to Know to Be Financially Prepared in Any Economy and Growing Up With Money: Raising Financially Resilient Kids in an Age of Uncertainty.