Setting your Compass on the Road to an Authentic Life


Setting your Compass on the Road to an Authentic Life

We all long for an authentic life. One in which we are fully ourselves and in touch with what is most important in life.

But we live in a world which is full of conflicting messages. It can be easy to end up living someone else’s life. We do all the things we’re “supposed” to do and escape the feelings of dissatisfaction with food, TV, games, alcohol, drugs or worse.

compass to authenticity

In the first post in this series, I laid out my 10 Fundamentals for an Authentic Life. Today I want to dive a little deeper into the first four on my list. I’m calling these Setting Your Compass.

1. Enjoy the Journey

I have a three-year-old. He gets distracted easily. A simple trip to the Supermarket, which in my case is a 5-minute walk away, can take hours to complete.

There is nothing to see on the way, in my mind at least. But my son finds insects, and random items on the ground, every few steps. Or, he stops to talk to anyone willing to pass the time of day.

As you can imagine, I get frustrated by this sometimes. I want to get to the shops and home quickly and get on to the next item on my to-do list.

Of course, my son isn’t actually distracted from the task of getting to the store, he has no concept of a to-do list. He is busy enjoying every moment of being outside. He knows how to enjoy the journey.

enjoy the journey

Learning to Enjoy the Journey

It can be easy to get so focused on the thing we want in life that we forget to enjoy where we are right now. We focus all our attention on our destination, and we don’t see what we have right in front of us.

Or perhaps we don’t like what we have at the moment. We’re looking to somewhere/ something new in life as a means of escape.

So we set goals, and make plans and chase after things we don’t yet have.

We can’t go back to childhood and meander through life. We need goals, and plans and destinations. Our achievements and attainments are essential in leading a fulfilling life. As long as they reflect the things we want, and we are not just trying to please a parent or a spouse, or impress our friends.

But achieving our goals doesn’t always bring us the satisfaction we expected. The destination might be disappointing, or the feeling of excitement soon wears off. Once we’ve achieved something, we can end up wondering now what?

And then it’s time to start off on the next journey life has for us.

How sad to have got to where we wanted to be but to have failed to enjoy the process of getting there.

Which is why it is important to make sure the things we are seeking are aligned with what is in our hearts. When you love what you are doing, you will naturally enjoy the journey, and bounce back more easily when the road gets rocky.

But we need to make sure we put fear in it’s proper place before we can respond to what our heart’s are telling us.

2. Don’t Let Fear Do the Driving

Don't Let Fear

When I was thinking about my 10 fundamentals, I initially wrote: “Fight Fear”. We often get the message that we must do battle with our fear. If we win, we will vanquish from our lives and never have to deal with it again.

The problem with this is that it doesn’t work very well. The more we fight, the more fear fights back. All that fighting leaves you tired and drained. Fear it seems, grows off our energy and gets bigger the more we fight it rather than smaller.

The second problem is, fear can be useful sometimes. It helps you to prepare for tough situations; it stops you driving the wrong way down the motorway; it keeps you safe. Among other things.

In Japanese things which cause both fear and excitement can be talked about with the phrase “doki doki”. It literally refers to the sound of a beating heart. When you’re on a first date, you’d feel doki doki for example. Sometimes the mix of fear and excitement can tell you what you REALLY want.

So rather than crush fear, I took Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice in her excellent book Big Magic. Gilbert says that rather than fighting fear she befriends it. She invites it along for the journey when she is working on a new creative project. But fear must sit in the back seat of the car. She won’t let it make any decisions. She says to her fear:

But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.

In other words, she tames her fear, not by fighting it, but by making sure it stays in its place.

When we make decisions based on fear alone they are never good decisions. We need to befriend our fear, thank if for trying to keep us safe, and keep our hands on the steering wheel at all times.

3. Trust You Are on The Right Path

Trust the Path

I’ve written a whole post about trusting your intuition and knowing you’re on the right path. So I won’t reproduce it now.

Go here to read it: How to Trust Your Intuition

If you’re feeling lost or doubting you have made the right decisions, please go and have a read.

In short, if your fear is matched by equal parts excitement and you are moving forward and growing in life, then you are on the right path.







4. Failure is One Step Closer to Success

failure and success

The final tool you need to set your compass is to recognise the importance of failure.

If you read this blog regularly, you may know that I live in Japan. In many ways, it is a very perfectionistic society. There is a lot of attention to detail and often little tolerance for mistakes.

The public transport system is one of the most complex and most efficient in the world, thanks to this. But when I taught university students it could be challenging to get them to take risks. No one wanted to make a mistake or risk failing in front of their friends.

I taught them English; the only way to learn a foreign language is to allow yourself to make mistakes. It is inevitable. The only way to avoid mistakes is to keep your mouth shut. But you won’t learn anything that way either.

When my son started walking, he didn’t care how often he fell over. And he fell over a lot. He tried to go too fast, too soon. But he kept getting back up and trying again. He wanted to walk and then not long afterwards he wanted to run. Now I can’t get him to sit still at all!

He is also a bit older, and he has learnt that some things are harder to learn than others. It can be easier to avoid failure but playing safe and not trying to do new things. Getting him out of nappies was a process of helping him believe he could do it, and he needed to know that the odd accident was no big deal.

The older we get, the harder it can be to keep trying new things. We don’t like to feel incompetent or to feel like we’ve failed. But you only fail if you quit. If you learn from your mistakes and keep trying, then failure will move you one step closer to success.


My friend Charlotte Marillet created a beautiful poster to accompany this series. Please enter your email in the box below to get your copy.

I love the way she interpreted my words through her illustration!

3 Little Buttons
Twin Mummy and Daddy

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