Bet you thought I’d forgotten, eh?
So. In part I we established that an Authentic Life is very much in the eye of the beholder. Sure, it often involves getting back to basics, being more self-sufficient, or living according to our highest values; but your authenticity isn’t mine and vice versa.
In part II we established that although knowing ourselves is vital to the Authentic Life, self-knowing is a lifelong trial-and-error process. And the Authentic Life requires both compromise and refusal to compromise.
We also established that some of the more rough-tough readers of Living Freedom consider the whole concept of cap-A Authenticity to be bogus hipsterism.
To sum: We don’t know what the Authentic Life is; we can’t get there predictably; it requires us to hold inherently inconsistent values; and our friends might laugh at us even for talking about the idea.
Where does that leave us? Ready to get going, of course!
12 steps to living it
- Examine your heart — and your head and hands, too. Yes, knowing yourself is vital. That’s why it’s important to know not just your dreams, but also (as much as possible) how capable you are of carrying them out. Also how much you might enjoy the fulfillment of those wishes. Dreams are all very well for 18-year-olds, but if you’re uprooting yourself in middle age, reality checks are even better. Some possible help: J.D. Roth’s 12 exercises for finding purpose; Richard Bolles’ perennial What Color is Your Parachute?; and good old tools like the Strong Interest Inventory and Myers-Briggs temperament typing.
- Make your best guess about where and how you want to end up. This will be subject to many adjustments.
- Try and get relevant experience. If your dream is to live on a deserted island off the coast of Scotland, try spending 40 days and 40 nights on one first. It might drive you screaming bonkers. If you aim to set up a little solar homestead in the SW desert, build and operate a small-scale system right where you are to see how it goes. Think you can make a living as a chainsaw sculptor? Don’t give up your day job until you know how good you are and if you can sell your work. Can’t get hands-on experience? Ask the Interwebs about pitfalls and realities.
- Prepare financially. I once knew a young couple with children who took off to Mexico in an RV to live their dream life. Only thing is, they were in debt up to their ears when they got out of Dodge. Debt did not enhance their peace of mind, their dream life, or their marriage (which soon dissolved). Sure, sometimes fate casts us out of our comfort zone and we just have to go with it. But to whatever extent you can plan, plan to get out of debt and have as much of a financial cushion as possible. On the other hand, don’t let financial perfectionism drive you to the point of inertia.
- Recognize the difference between an obstacle and a barrier. An obstacle you can go over, under, around, or through. A barrier is the Great Wall of China. Of course, at the moment you crash into some seemingly immovable object in the path to your dreams, it’s hard to know which is which. Earlier this month Comrade X recommended The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph. It’s quite helpful (provided you don’t mind taking advice from a) some author who’s barely old enough to shave and b) a dead Roman emperor).
- When you hit an obstacle — get creative. Stop. (Well, you’ve already been stopped.) Breathe. Think. Poke. Probe. Ponder. Consider options. Make a pro-con list if that helps. See if you can turn the obstacle into an opportunity; and if not into a new opportunity then at least navigate your way to the portion of your path that lies beyond it.
- When you hit a genuine barrier — change course. Forty days alone in the Hebrides really did drive you screaming bonkers? Your chainsaw sculpting ended when you accidentally cut your hand off? Go ahead; piss and moan for a while, then ask, “What do I try next?”
- Don’t be afraid to go all the way. Once you know what you want, don’t be afraid to go absolutely balls to the wall in pursuit of it. Don’t allow co-workers to make you doubt yourself. Don’t allow relatives (who aren’t directly involved in your plans) to guilt-trip you into backing down. Don’t feel you have to keep one foot in your old world, just for security’s sake. This is voice of experience talking. I’ve said it before: My own biggest error in pursuing cap-L Life is not going far enough. This is where your NO COMPROMISE attitude comes to the fore.
- Be prepared to adapt — and adapt again. Unless you’re very, very lucky, you’ll quickly find that not everything goes your way. In fact, if you’re really headed out there onto that limb, many, many things will not go your way. This is where COMPROMISE BECOMES YOUR FRIEND. Change. Adapt. Tapdance. Improvise. Fake it ’til you make it. DIY, then DI all over again as needed.
- Cultivate good friends and better neighbors. We have many introverts around this blog, even quite a few downright hermits. But did somebody once note that “no man is an island”? So right. We need people to help us. And to succeed in a risky new life, we also need to be the kind of people others can depend on. (And here we’re in luck. Introversion may actually make us deeper friends and better neighbors in many ways.) Being authentic (I’ll drop the cap-A to avoid excess hipsterism) is in part about being dependable and honest and cultivating others who share those values.
- “Authentic” may mean different things at different stages of life. I’ve found — and this is subjective but generally true — that life goals shift about once every 20 years. You think you’ve got it made, then you suddenly or gradually discover, “This ain’t it.” It might have been it at one point, but no longer. Know that change is not failure. You may work toward some goal, get close or even achieve it, then decide to return to a much less risky, less unconventional, life. The only failure is to refuse to learn from experience.
- Don’t let the Ideal muck up your reality. For freedomistas, especially, it’s hard to live in harmony with our deepest values. So much of the politicized world conspires to make that impossible. We strive for self-sufficiency and personal integrity, but end up rendering way too much unto Caesar. We pay taxes, fill out forms, get licenses that “allow” us to drive on the king’s highways, obey many mala prohibita laws we’d rather break, and so on. For people like us, this feels hypocritical and therefore painfully inauthentic. But here again, both compromise and refusal to compromise are our friends. To pursue this elusive Authentic Life we desire, we have to know what lines we absolutely will not cross and conversely where we’ll go along to get along. The one thing we must not do, must never do, is say, “Pure freedom is hopeless, therefore I’m not even going to bother to try.”
And there you have it. Simple, eh?
Alright, not so simple. But here at Living Freedom and over at sister site Claire’s Cabal we may have just the perfect panel of experts in this very subject to help us along our way.
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