5 Behaviors to Stop in the New Year

“Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” — Eckhart Tolle

Authenticity is one of those words thrown around as if it were a tool or quality to possess. But, Authenticity is elusive. You can recognize it in others, and feel the impact of it when you are leading an authentic life yourself. Indeed, you can feel it when you are NOT living authentically.

Sometimes, in our humanness, we trade authenticity for safety, image, or acceptance. Doing so works temporarily, but ultimately leads to anxiety, depression or resentment. Living an inauthentic life also leads to chronic dissatisfaction. In my coaching practice, this is sometimes the state I first find my clients in. The cure for inauthenticity is not found in long-term psychoanalysis or a bottle of meds. The solutions are far simpler, yet more challenging — a practice of radical self — examination that leads to Authenticity.

Living an Authentic life is as much a way of being as it is a way of not being. So, as we make our way to the new year, here are my top five challenges to Authenticity that you can leave behind.

1. Stop the “should” and “should-not.”
Perhaps in no other time in history has society been set up to leave you free. In reality, there is no standard anymore about when or if to marry, have children, go to college or what job to have. Thanks to the advent of the internet, opportunities to invent yourself and follow your dreams as an artist, writer, consultant, craftsman, student or teacher abound. Even without technology, consider that whatever expectation you are “shoulding” yourself with was probably learned by that 5-year-old self, eating cookies around your Mother’s kitchen table. Isn’t it time to stop taking life advice from a 5-year-old?

2. Stop listening to naysayers.
There is will always be a reason not to do something. And there will be dozens of people willing to tell you so. People can’t help it. “No” keeps us safe, does not confront and does not threaten. “No” also keeps us small, powerless, and dissatisfied.

Next time you share your great expectations with someone and are met with negativity, consider what about your possibility is making them face that which might be unrealized in their own life. How painful might it be for them to confront their unfulfilled dreams of love and marriage, work, health or life’s passion? What would supporting you mean about their personal lack of courage?

Naysaying usually has nothing to do with you, your reality or your possibilities and more likely has more to do with other people’s fears.

Learn to ignore those who are negative with compassion.

3. Stop explaining yourself & waiting for permission.
“What do I say to my Mom?” or “What will my family/the neighbors/my friends think?” or “Who the hell do I think I am?”

When I was going through my divorce and was worried about what my traditional Latino, Catholic family would say, my best friend gave me this advice. “You don’t need to explain anything. You just need to decide.” These simple words are what I held onto in the face of my own fears. They later became the mantra that fueled my future.

4. Stop being sorry.
“I’m sorry you are sick.”
“I’m sorry I’m late.”
“I’m sorry that didn’t work out.”

Unless you are personally responsible for others being sick, late or their plans not working out, you probably are not genuinely sorry, or certainly should not be. So, stop it. Just stop.

Words have meaning, and they help to form reality. Mean what you and say what you mean.

“I hate seeing you sick.”
“Being late is frustrating — to you and me.”
“Your plans didn’t work out, and that’s disappointing.”

Be accurate, precise and real.

5. Stop letting your past run you.
Again, stop taking life lessons from past versions of yourself who aren’t nearly as sophisticated, experienced or as wise as the version of yourself that exists today.

Perhaps you have regrets. Perhaps there was a terrible event that changed your life. Or perhaps there was a wish that didn’t come true (divorce, business failure, loss of a loved one). What do you know today that former-self did not? What lessons did that situation/mistake/event leave you with? What do you know today that you didn’t know before that situation/mistake/event?

Consider who you are now, what you now know and the strengths you possess today. Armed with these resources, what advice would have for your former self in that circumstance? If you must revisit the past, consider the lessons you have learned along the way. Use these lessons as the filter by which you run your thoughts about who were in the past. And view yourself with compassion.

What more is there to say? Plenty.

This subject of “Authentic Living” is so central to our lives. Not living out of our Authentic Selves is what keeps us blocked, unhealthy, alone, unfulfilled and anxious. As you ring in the new year, consider the old adage, “Out with the old. In with the new.” It is time to rid yourself of thoughts and behaviors that no longer serve you.

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