“There is perhaps nothing worse than reaching the top of the ladder and discovering you’re on the wrong wall.”
– Joseph Campbell
The ‘baby boom’ era is dead and the 20th century finished 16 years ago. Most of us are aware that becoming a ‘success’ in societies terms is not necessarily going to leave us feeling fulfilled. In fact, a ‘secure’, well paid employed job, your own house, marriage, two kids and two holidays a year may be your idea of hell and not the pinnacle of achievement that society would have us believe. Granted, most of this disdain for a materially driven and conformist life has to do with the nature of the work we do, rather than an aversion to holidays or family life, but we are all becoming wiser to the possibility that our ladder might be up against the wrong wall.
If this is the case or you’re about to enter the world of work or considering leaving your present career to find something that is more authentically you, then you need to read the following nine quotes. Some have been chosen because they provide direction, others because they instruct you on the attitude you need to adopt. All of them, if followed, will bring you closer to living a life that is a true reflection of your values and dreams.
2. Follow your Nature
“One should always be on the trail of one’s own deepest nature. For it is the fearless living out of your own essential nature that connects you to the divine.”
– David Henry Thoreau
Inner guidance is real. Forget what society tells you, your conscience or inner voice is your best guide through life. You feel a certain way about different people, work and places for a reason. It’s your nature telling you what to pursue and what to avoid.
3. There’s nothing chaining you to a life of conformity
“I know where I’m going and I know the truth and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”
– Muhammad Ali
Ali reminds us of a very simple yet profound truth – conformity is not forced upon us. We have a choice. The next time a parent, teacher, friend, classmate, boss, colleague, the media, tries to exert pressure on you to behave in a way they think is best then firmly remind them, “I don’t have to be what you want me to be.’”
4. Operate Outside Convention
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
– Nelson Mandela
You may have to become an ‘outlaw’. Not in the sense that you commit crimes, but in the sense that you operate outside of accepted societal norms. The person who seeks an authentic life cares little for what other people think of them, isn’t controlled by money and doesn’t accept the limitations imposed on them by others.
5. Love leads you to an Authentic Life
“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”
– Che Guevara
Having a positive impact on the world is your highest calling. Lifting other people up will give you a greater sense of fulfillment than seeking personal gain. Remember this when choosing a path for your authentic life.
6. Be Outrageous
“Being outrageous is a way to succeed . . . Sometimes I prefer being way out there, shocking people. Rebelliousness is part of what drove me from Austria. I didn’t want to be like everyone else. I thought of myself as special or unique and not the average Hans or Franz.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
Being ‘outrageous’ is a tactic you can deploy to be successful at living an authentic life. It’s not that you’ll put on an act to draw attention to yourself. It’s more that you refuse to filter your personality. This always gains attention for your cause or product as, sadly, the majority stifle their uniqueness for fear of not being accepted.
7. Fight the Spiritual War
“We are the middle children of history. No purpose, no place. We have no great war, no great depression. Our great war is a spiritual war; our great depression is our lives.”
– Tyler Durden
No four sentences more perfectly capture the plight of the people of the early 21st Century. We are fighting a spiritual war. Do we succumb to materialism and the lifeless creed of more money, more food, more clothes, more cars, more homes and more ‘status’? Or do we take a leap and pursue that which makes us come alive?
8. Never have an Agenda
“If you follow your heart, if you listen to your gut, and if you extend your hand to help another, not for any agenda, but for the sake of humanity, you are going to find the truth.”
– Erin Brockovich
Never have an agenda for the things you do. Don’t make decisions because you think it’s going to make you money. While financial considerations are important, they should NEVER be the driving force of an authentic life. Instead, work, take up a cause, get involved with a project and help other people simple because it makes you feel good. You’ll be amazed at where this impulse leads.
9. Be Prepared for Rejection
“When you are unknown, you will take unusual rejection. You must be able to take that without becoming destroyed. You must not accept that.”
– Phillis Diller
At present, it is the fate of the individual seeking an authentic life to go against the grain of society. As a result, your path, at least initially, will be harder. There could be many setbacks and many occasions when your ideas, product or even you, are rejected. Don’t let this affect your self-esteem. Instead, realize that this is just part of your journey and maintain a belief in yourself at all times.
10. Be a Paradigm Shifter
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world,
The unreasonable man adapts the world to himself,
That’s why all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
– George Bernard Shaw
I had to end with this quote because it gives you a taste of what’s to come. People are going to call you unreasonable for refusing to live by society’s standards but ultimately, you’ll be the one setting the agenda. This is because those who live inauthentic lives never change a thing. Instead, they just accept. Therefore, you’ll have free reign to make the positive change in the world that you want to see.
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Joe Barnes is the founder of Screw the System and author of the critically acclaimed book Escape the System. His mission is to help people succeed on their own terms. He also works as a tennis coach and hypnotherapist.