How To Be Authentic And Live The Good Life, Part 1

How to be authentic? Read on to find out…

how to be authentic

Are you trying to fit in?

It’s nice to belong. You feel good when you have a sense of camaraderie with others. And you feel validated when others approve of you.

But it’s a high price to pay if you’re not authentic.

Worst still, you might not even be authentic to yourself, pretending you’re someone you’re not.

Here’s the thing about authenticity: everyone wins. You win because you can stay true to your unique qualities. Everyone else wins, too, because they know you can always be trusted.

Why You Like Some People Right Away

Sometimes you meet someone and you like them right away. You’re not sure why you like them, but you do.

Often this feeling of instant empathy with another is because the person is authentic. They are real. They are not pretending to be someone they are not. They are wholly and truly themselves.

In a world of insecure people, where people mask their true nature to try to fit in or win in life, how do some people manage to keep it real?

The answer is both simple and complex. Authentic people have learned how to develop their character.

It Starts With Character

Sit down and define what the good life means for you. Once you’ve found a definition that works for you, it will open up a whole new chain of causality, synchronicity, and serendipity. Doors will appear where you once saw walls.

If you are impeccable with your word, take the high road when faced with difficult ethical choices, and treat everyone with courtesy and respect your your whole life will take on a magical quality. You will feel happy for no reason. Unexpected good fortune will come your way.

Without realizing it, you will have stumbled upon the good life.

The Good Life Is Authentic

To the ancients, the question of how to be authentic was phrased as a question about the good life.

What is the good life? That’s a burning question that cost Socrates his life because he thought the unexamined life was not worth living. 

Plato and Aristotle tackled the question with passion. Dissatisfied with their answers, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche formulated their own.

It’s a burning question because it’s a fundamental ontological one. If you can define the good life, you can design your ideal life.

Just as Alexander the Great appeared to solve the intractable problem of how to untie the Gordian Knot by slashing it open with a sword, we appear to have resolved this burning question by oversimplifying it as “the pursuit of success.”

Is Success the Good Life?

Stand on the street corner of any major city in the world and ask everyone who is willing to talk to you about the definition of the good life. Nine out of ten people will tell you its success.

We’re easily impressed by people who have done well in life. If they have money, degrees, won awards, or become a celebrity, we think they’re remarkable.

We think they have discovered the good life.

I had that impression, too, until I ran into the late Richard Pryor, the actor who played Gus Gorman in Superman III. You may remember that Gus Gorman was the wacky computer genius bent on destroying Superman (Christopher Reeves).

I remember sitting at a restaurant and glancing over at the next table to see Richard Pryor and his friends drinking beer. This was shortly after the release of Superman III.

I was electrified by my close proximity with a celebrity. I jumped to my feet and asked him for his autograph. Despite my rude interruption, he graciously scribbled his name on a napkin.

Today, I’m embarrassed by my impetuosity.

Why Did I Do it?

It’s because I was under the cultural spell of a common illusion. I thought my brush with Pryor would rub off on me.

We all want to do well in life. We want to do what we love and to have the things we desire. Success appears to provide the means for that instant gratification.

Almost all of us raised in the West automatically associate success with wealth, and with power and influence. We associate  success with living the good life.

But is this belief even close to the truth?

What’s The Truth?

The truth is that success alone is not enough to experience the good life. In fact, it may have little to do with it.

Allow me to illustrate my apparently illogical statement with a real life illustration.

Howard Hughes appeared to have had it all. He had almost everything that most men want when it comes to making it in the world.

He was tall and good-looking, and he multiplied the fortune he inherited from his father’s tool building business.

He became famous for breaking world-records in aviation, making blockbuster movies, and dating the most beautiful women in the world,  actresses who were becoming world-famous.

If that wasn’t enough, he was also a genius mechanic and developed the first retractable landing gear.

Yet none of this larger-than-life success made him happy. Today, he is remembered as a hirsute recluse who would not cut his hair or fingernails because of his germophobia.  

Success in all its myriad forms did not manifest as the good life for him.

Although he may have pushed the limits of what can go wrong when you have everything, he showed that success alone is not the answer.

Here’s How To Be Authentic

If getting everything you want does not lead to happiness, it can’t be the source of the good life. 

If success in all its splendor does not necessarily lead to happiness, then what is the good life?

I propose that worldly success alone is not enough. Something else is necessary.

I propose that the good life is based on learning how to be authentic.

In Part 2, we will look at some characteristics of how to be authentic and some living examples.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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