I recently returned from an energizing vacation in Europe full of culture, history, amazing food and time for reflection. Meeting and getting to know people from different parts of the world is one of my favorite pursuits while traveling. Their stories and experiences bring important lessons, inspiration, “aha” moments, understanding and gratitude.

This trip was particularly enlightening for me. As I listened to many stories, I began to realize that regardless of where people are from, or what their professional background is, they share a similar goal: to simplify their lives and honour those things most important to them – family, friends, community and personal health. From lawyers, to engineers, to bankers and business owners – the demands and pressure of being constantly connected and working long hours are universal concerns. “How are you doing it?” – I would ask, curiously. Response after response, highlighted people were making “different choices”. 

As I reflected on their experiences, insights and some of the new choices they were making, it became clear to me that striving for simplicity starts with choosing to live authentically. 

Authenticity creates Simplicity”. 

I describe authenticity as staying true to yourself – your values, preferences and abilities. That being said, it also means having respect for other people and their values. Adam Grant, psychologist, author and professor at Wharton, captures the essence of this need to show continuous respect when he writes: “Authenticity without boundaries is careless. Be true to your values but show regard for others’ values.”

Creating an authentic life requires a focus on 4 key areas:

1. Live Intentionally

Ever wonder – “How did I get here?” Or – “Is this all there is?” It’s easy to lose our sense of self as we travel through life. We may become distracted by endless deadlines and commitments. We may find ourselves going through the motions to conform to what society expects of us. Time passes until one day we discover that success and fulfilment are not equal. To be fulfilled is to live with intention and purpose. Fulfillment shows up in ways that are consistent with our values, preferences and abilities. Fulfillment demands prioritizing time to feed our passions.

Exploring what’s important, setting intentions, identifying trade-offs, following through – all contribute to our personal journey of self-discovery.

2. Honour Values 

Our values are the foundation of our well-being. They are the underlying and driving force behind what really matters to us. When our actions are inconsistent with our values, our emotional and mental wellness are affected. Purposefully aligning actions to values helps maintain balance. 

Take time to write down your top values. Identify actions aligned to those values. For example, when people miss important moments in the lives of friends, children and family members there’s no replay button. Daily reflection triggers better choices – the next time around.

3. Manage Energy & Attention

Energy is our most important life currency. Be mindful of where it’s spent. Try conducting an energy and attention audit. Begin by building stop signs during the day to pause, notice and recharge:

  • Distinguish between what’s providing – and what’s robbing – your energy.
  • Consider both who and where your attention is focused.
  • How is this serving you?
  • What changes could you make? Start by committing to small changes throughout the day to help recharge.

4. Choose Courage

Fear and judgement create unnecessary barriers and boundaries around how we live. When people place greater importance on who others want them to be and what others think about them, versus what they need or want for themselves, they begin to feel stuck, unfulfilled, stressed and unhappy.

Our days are full of choices. Choices give us capacity. Capacity to create change. Capacity to be in control.

Choose courage and allow yourself to feel fear. Feeling fear is how people grow, stretch and evolve. There is power in authenticity. The power is yours – stay true to it.