Monday, May 21, 2007

Authentic living

I'm trying to figure out exactly what I mean when I talk about wanting to live more fully and authentically. In practice it often degenerates into trying to do more which is definitely not what I need. Heidi has a painfully close-to-home post about what happens when the perfectionist drive takes over.

But what is the solution? I don't think the answer for me is simply to stop doing things. The desire for excellence and the compulsion to action are good things. Using one's gifts for some noble end is a fundamental human activity, even though it can so easily run amok. I've been reading articles lately by people who are so burned out by the misuse of vision that I feel almost guilty for saying that I really want one. I want to work hard for something that I am passionately devoted to, something real, not just something that I create to keep myself on that addictive edge of being completely overwhelmed.

But right now I'm not thinking about any sort of "life purpose" (apologies; I hate the phrase myself). What about just life?

I don't want to be list-driven but I do want to be intentional, to identify my under-developed faculties, to take small steps toward wholeness in all the important categories of living. My categories so far are:

1. Spiritual
2. Relational
3. Physical
4. Environmental
5. Artistic
6. Intellectual

I hope in the next few weeks to reflect on each category and come up with an idea of what authenticity and wholeness might look like, and how to move toward it in a balanced way.

Any thoughts? How do you define authentic living? How do you fight perfectionism without giving up on excellence and hard work? How do you know when you get it right?


em said...

so your version of blogging is asking a lot of well-articulated hard questions.

relationally, my goals are to not pretend and to not manipulate and to be intentional about not letting things drift in polite distance. and to manage the guilt thing without "managing" it. I'm not sure how to know when I've got there though.

Heidi said...

I like your thoughts on this. :) It's something I need to explore more for myself, because as you said - "The desire for excellence and the compulsion to action are good things." Though it HAS run amok in my life and I'm being forced into a season of total rest and "not-doing", I think in the long run I need to learn a new way of *being* that will incorporate all those avenues you mentioned. I'm hoping that really living in the present moment and being *with* myself instead of striving to be perfect will allow movement and action to come from my core, instead of my perfectionism. Even though vision can sometimes kill life, I think what you're talking about is different - like you said, intentionality. The way I put it is that I desire to move in rhythm with my deepest self. Because I believe that Christ lives IN me and has redeemed my deepest self and my deepest desires, I think that if I can actually listen to those desires and move from that place, my "doing" will really be "authentically being who I really am." Does that make sense?

I think you'd really like the book "The Call" by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. It's actually the third in a trilogy but it speaks powerfully to this very issue. She's a poet and it's a book of meditations on one of her poems. I know, I know, she has a new-agey name but she's not new-agey. :-P

Anyway, good thoughts, I look forward to more of them. :)

Kelly said...

Dana, my husband Pete and I have been talking a lot about this in the year and a half we've been married. It's been really important for us to just *live* each moment we have, instead of always trying to get to the next thing, whatever that is. I'm eight months pregnant now, and strangely enough, we've not lost the moments along the way by getting sucked into the whole, "we're having a baby" identity.

I think living has something to do with accepting each morning as it comes, regardless of the failures or depression or unproductivity of the day before, knowing that God's grace does cover our human imperfections and inability to live up to even our own expectations of ourselves.

This post has had me thinking since I read it--I thought you'd appreciate it too. (

the Joneses said...

Generally my approach to a question like this is, Don't think so hard about it. Plus it helps if you're not a perfectionist, so work on that first, then don't think about it so hard.:)

-- SJ