March 6, 2023

Embracing Authenticity to Achieve True Success

Shailja Sharma

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Have you worked hard to climb the career ladder only to find out that the ladder is leaning against the wrong building? Or is the treadmill of your daily grind taking you nowhere? Achievement junkies sign up for every course, volunteer for every opportunity, and push themselves to get promoted. They say yes to everything, constantly scanning their environments for new possibilities as they rack up a laundry list of achievements. Their resumes are lengthy and laborious to get through. Burnout is a state they get into and out of frequently, on their quest for success that seems to elude them. Then, during one of those pivotal moments that life often deals with us without warning, they are finally forced to pause and ask themselves, ‘What was it all for?’ In those dark nights of the soul, achievement junkies finally stop looking for their next fix and realize that they have worn themselves out and they do not know why. If you are experiencing this, do not despair. Embrace this opportunity to rest and reflect.

The opposite may be true for you. Maybe you have been complacent and you have not stepped out of your comfort zone to embrace opportunities that will take you to the next level. Perhaps you have procrastinated pursuing a course, a training, or taking steps to change what needs to be changed in your life, so that you can unlock all that dormant potential. Could it be time to push yourself and finally go for it?

Achievement for achievement’s sake is worthless, unless it is meaningful to you. And since what is meaningful to you may not be meaningful to someone else, allow your authenticity to take centre-stage. You are an individual. You have unique talents, gifts, and strengths. You have a set of core values that guide your life, whether you are conscious of them or not. There are things that light up and invigorate you. When you make authentic life decisions, there is a sense of peace or excitement which makes these decisions feel right deep down. Honouring your individuality, your desires, and ambitions and what is truly important to you can bring a lot of joy and contentment to your life. Your own inner voice should never be silenced by the opinions of others. You have an inner compass that will not steer you wrong if you take the time to tune into it.

Conduct a life audit by reflecting on your career journey and all the facets of your life. Note down the milestones you have hit on your journey. Which memories and milestones have been the most meaningful and fulfilling for you? What meaningful relationships have you built? As a child or a young adult, what did you dream about becoming? Are you living the life you envisioned for yourself five years ago? However, it can be difficult to unpack all of this by yourself. Coaching can help you to find the answers you are looking for and help guide this inner exploration to unlock hidden insights. A meaningful and fulfilling life can be cultivated from self-awareness and self-compassion.

Some of the most bitter and frustrated people in life did not have the courage to listen to their inner voices. They allowed the weight of other people’s expectations, society’s expectations, and their own self-sabotage to derail them from making authentic life decisions. They are unhappy in their careers and live for the weekends or resort to other means to fill the emptiness in their lives. Sometimes, the successful image we project on the outside masks the unhappiness within ourselves. There are some seemingly successful people who are miserable and waiting to retire in order to finally be happy.

If you are experiencing this and reflecting that you did everything right –you achieved all you set out to, you went the extra mile –  and you’re wondering how you arrived at this point, you are not alone. I have coached many people who have reached that point of sheer frustration. And the good news is that discontentment and sometimes even ‘rock-bottom’ is the catalyst that can change your life for the better. When you get to the point where you are unwilling to put up with your circumstances, you will finally take the action steps needed to get to where you want to be.

Living an authentic life leads to the right kind of success. In this day and age, many people are pushing their retirement and continuing to work well into their seventies and beyond. There are some individuals who will have had two or three successful careers before they reach the age of seventy. When they had plateaued in one career, these enterprising people switched to other careers that were more fulfilling for them at different stages in their lives.

When you embrace authenticity, you will become more valuable. There may be strengths and capabilities that you have that are lying just under the surface, which you need to excavate. You may have overlooked other possibilities for yourself. Bringing out your true nature, using your natural talents, and operating from a deep sense of purpose will be game-changing. The energy and enthusiasm you bring to your workplace will be very different when you are doing what you are passionate about. You will invigorate everyone around you. Passion and positivity are contagious. When you are working in a ‘flow state’ you will make your best contributions.

Therefore, take the time to reflect on your journey and then, imagine yourself looking back one day on a life that was well-lived, meaningful, happy, prosperous, and impactful and work backwards. What do you need to change now to get to that point of satisfaction one day? There are so many opportunities to learn and grow. If you have stagnated in your career, look for opportunities to course-correct. Take a new course, change your job, change your employer, or take the plunge and switch careers. Do what feels right for you. Do not wait until you are seventy to start living the way you truly want to live.Act in accordance with your authentic self. You are, after all, the author of your own life.

Article by Shailja Sharma, SBS Faculty Member and Leadership and Career Coach

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