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The Authentic Life, part III

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

  1. 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.
  2. Make your best guess about where and how you want to end up. This will be subject to many adjustments.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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?”
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. “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.
  12. 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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  1. larryarnold
    larryarnold May 20, 2018 6:56 pm

    And there you have it. Simple, eh? Alright, not so simple.

    Well, it really is simple. But “simple” almost never translates into “easy.”

  2. Comrade X
    Comrade X May 20, 2018 9:07 pm

    I am hoping that Ryan Holiday is older than he looks for sure.

    Determining what I can have some control of and what I can’t, then to focus on what I can seems to be the way for me. Time is just too valuable to be wasted on what I can’t.

    Overcoming the fear of failure by embracing it as an educating experience. But learning doesn’t include repeating the failure part at least IMHO.

    Don’t let others box you in with their limits.

  3. Joel
    Joel May 21, 2018 6:34 am

    The road to simplicity will prove very complicated indeed.

    Yes! I like this one, Claire. It’s meaty.

    When encountering the first obstacle of any size, especially in the face of nay-saying relations and acquaintances, the temptation is to say “Okay, it won’t work.” Then notice that you’re late for work or the lawn needs mowing, and get sucked back into the life you really were kind of afraid to escape in the first place. When what the situation really calls for is welding a push bumper on your Prius and having another go at the obstacle.

    Also to be considered: Your vision of The Authentic Life is not my vision of The Authentic Life, nor is it required to be. I know a woman, a good friend, proven as intelligent and capable as anyone in this room. She decided that what she wanted to do with her life was to become more domestic and dependent. Her partner has a business that is starting to take off after years of struggling and may continue to skyrocket in success, but that person is not the greatest administrator in the world. They had been working their respective jobs and sharing household chores for years. My friend is much better at details and paperwork, so she quit her job and threw herself into household and business management. Had I done this it would have been a straight wide road to business failure and maybe murder/suicide, but she’s never been happier (and the business has never been more successful). So what the hell do I know about what will make her happy?

  4. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty May 21, 2018 7:32 am

    People ask me sometimes how I’m “doing.” I always tell them that I’m putting one foot in front of another, just like everyone else alive. They usually look a bit puzzled and sometimes say, “I’m fine too…” A response to the expected answer of PC superficiality.

    I like sauerkraut and pickled beets – can even occasionally be cornered and force fed canned green beans, but I would never eat snails. Among other things… Each to his/her own.

    And then, life hands you realities that you didn’t ask for and, all too often, are simply not prepared to deal with. I don’t have an answer for that. 🙁

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