Bill Treasurer is a fake! I came to that conclusion about a year after I had become a full-time internal executive coach at Accenture. The role itself was perfect. I had a budget, a good deal of latitude to do the job as I saw fit, and although most of my coachees outranked me, all had signed an agreement that it would be a “levelless” relationship. Besides all that, I was making a lot of money doing what I love to do, helping people grow.
Why was I a fake? Because the more I coached my clients, the more I realized that my own beliefs and actions were out of step. As a coach, it is my job to help accentuate my coachees, to help them become the person they want to become. To do this, I help coachees identify their deepest aspirations, and then help them create a plan for making those aspirations real. While I was successful in helping my coachees apply these techniques, I wasn’t applying them in my own life. I had become the consultant’s consultant, someone who could give advice better than he could apply it.
The problem was, I was not being the person I wanted to become. I was living an inauthentic life.
Throughout the ages, the most consistent prescription for personal well-being is this: Be who you must be. The Greek poet Pindar said, “Grow into what you are.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Insist on yourself, never imitate.” Famed psychologist Erich Fromm said, “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.” Robert Louis Stevenson said, “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.” And Abraham Maslow said, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”
These sages said explicitly what we all know implicitly, that when you have become far removed from who you are supposed to be, when your work-self and personal-self are wholly different people, and when the masks you wear don’t look anything like your real face, you expend too much energy living a life of pretense.
Authenticity has to do with integrity. When the person we portray to the world is the same as the person we truly are, we are being our authentic self. When we are authentic, we are who we are, take us or leave us. To live authentically is to live without pretense, and to express and assert the gift of your individuality. Living authentically means being psychologically patriotic, proud of who you are. The benefit of being our authentic selves is that instead of wasting time pretending to be someone we are not, we have more impassioned energy to get on with the business of living. Living a life of authenticity represents the end to an exhausting game of make-believe.
Where are you living an inauthentic life? Giant Leap Consulting can help you live more authentically. Learn more about our leadership coaching program.