I recently made the decision to quit a really great job, working for a really great company. Although the opportunity was ideal in many ways, it made me feel miserable, which I never understood why until I left. What I realized after quitting was that not once during my time with the company did I feel like myself.
I had to leave to realize that this job that was perfect for many others, was not perfect for myself. I did not choose to resign because of low pay, lack of advancement, or anything opportunity related. I left because the job forced me to live a lifestyle so incredibly different from that which would make me truly happy, and I needed to make a change. I recognized the fact that I needed to work toward a lifestyle that is authentically my own, and to stop letting others expectations dictate my own fate.
In the book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig discusses the inherent differences between two types of mountain climbers, the ego-climber and the selfless climber. He states that the ego climber is almost certainly doomed to fail.
On the surface he may actually succeed, although for him it will be a hollow experience lacking any real value. This is because he climbs only for the credit that will be received from doing so. The selfless climber however, will succeed because he climbs for nothing but pure enjoyment. He climbs for the pleasure of the experience, and will leave satisfied regardless of the outcome.
In modern society many connect and live through technology. Our minds have become distracted by popularity contests and societal expectations. Instead of living out our hearts desires and fulfilling our personal needs, we are often occupied with managing the perception of our personal ‘brand’. Although a skill for public relations can definitely be great, it will not help any of us live the lives we have always dreamed of. Just like the ego climber, many of us are guilty of possessing such an outlook. Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard not to.
Authenticity is not about being honest and transparent with those around us, it is about being honest and transparent with ourselves. This means not convincing ourselves that we want to be a banker if deep down we know we would rather build custom furniture out of tree trunks.
If we find ourselves trying to live a particular lifestyle only for the image it portrays or the inherent benefits, we need to rethink our priorities. There is nothing wrong with being open minded and giving new experiences a try, but our own happiness should be the ultimate priority. Individuals with passion in their hearts act from authenticity, and not for the implicit rewards. They do what is right for them, when it is right for them. They are exemplars of the selfless climber we should all strive toward being.
As we are constantly bombarded by the external influences of daily life, it can often be hard to remember what our unique, personal needs actually are. The difference between how we truly feel, and how we think we should feel is sometimes unclear. Carl Gustav Jung said it best: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are”. Understanding ourselves is the most important step toward finding our true purpose in life. Happiness cannot be faked.