Ready for Level 2?

Welcome to another level of Quest for Authenticity (qfa). Over the previous weeks, I have invested a lot of time in rethinking qfa in order to use these perspectives to redo the website and give it a new sense of direction. Underneath, I will explain how this came in to being.

I am back at home. A different home this time. I left home 3 years ago in The Netherlands, a year ago in Switzerland and subsequently I left home again in the Netherlands. After leaving home so many times, it is good to be back. This time, I am in Brazil though.

Traffic in Curitiba
Curitiba, Brazil

After traveling for 8 months, learning two languages, meeting a lot of people, getting familiar with different customs, food, and having hitchhiked over 4000 kilometers in 5 different countries, it is now time to continue my quest for authenticity. Since this quest does not define a where or a how, I will continue it here at home. A little less hitchhiking and weird adventures I suppose, but nothing less exciting from my perspective. As things go, the beautiful thing of all I experienced, is that I have a better idea of what I do not want. Coming closer to what I do want to invest my time in.

This quest all started with the idea of getting more of myself out of me. In this I’ve looked to redefine environmental and societal norms and values, so I could figure out what holds true to me. Rediscovering my love for everything that moves body, mind, and behavior, and getting back to working with people, was worth a lot. At least for half a year there was nothing but criticism on my mind, towards my former job, but most of all towards the system I had to function in. The latter influenced the previous so much, that I had stopped valuing my formal profession entirely.

At the same time, traveling triggered so many other things in me that that there were actually moments where I imagined myself hitchhiking all around the world. To use little or no money, sell all my possessions, reduce my belongings to the contents of a backpack, and to go totally off the grid. However, I have mentioned before that I have a tendency to be obsessive with everything new I start. Therefore, going off traveling and encountering so many new things gave me a lot of opportunities to become obsessive.

Nevertheless, it is not just the traveling, but also the period before that allowed me to form into what I am. The amount of change and shifts I went through in these 8 months could have never had the effect they had, if it was not for all that went on before. I was fully engaged in a working environment I liked, and criticized at the same time. I enjoyed the support of family and friends whom always offered authentic and useful feedback, allowing me to flourish into a me, I am more content with than ever.

This process is an ongoing cycle, that sometimes throws me back to places I have already been. This used to be an annoyance of the first degree. Now, I recognize the value of redefining experiences. Even though, there is a red line that will continue whatever happens. I maintain to have a strong wish to live according to my terms. At the same time, I realize my fortune of coming from a place with education, materialistic welfare of the highest standard, and a home that the majority of the population in our world does not enjoy.

This gratitude and awareness only intensifies my motivation to keep going along the aforementioned line. It would be a waste to throw away all of these advantages and go sit in a cubicle. I intend to keep redefining myself, I intend to keep looking for discomfort, and I intend to not make this just about me.

With all these experiences and a renewed purpose fresh in mind, I decided to give this blog more direction. Where it first was more of an outlet, I now believe it to be a valuable tool to convey the message of the inevitable connection between self love, a healthy lifestyle, and the capacity to change any aspect of life. At the same I will try to offer insights about the things that drive the relation between our behavior and our environment. This combination, I believe, might encourage you to go live your own authentic lifestyle.

From now on, health and longevity related articles you will find in My Blue Zone. Articles on awareness, the twists in reality, and fairy tales constructed within our society that silently drive our behavior are posted in Wake Up! To read the personal reflections that I offer, look under Authenticity. If you want to receive my latest blog instantly in your mailbox, don’t hesitate to hit the YES! button down below. Also, if you have any questions or feedback, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Thank you and see you around,

Joël

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Neymar, What Do You Represent?

Dear Neymar,

How are you? I saw you play against Switzerland the other day. I noticed your new hair cut. I really liked the Elvis style. I heard you brought your hairdresser to Russia though. He must be having a great time! Too bad, he cut your hair short after that game. Did you think that’s why you didn’t score any goals? Haha, just kidding. Anyway, I sincerely hope you will get this letter, because I have been meaning to talk to you for a while already.

You know, my mind spins, every time I see you play. It seems that you have figured out how to fly, but only when you are touched in the right place. Then, every time you walk in or out of the dressing room, I get to see commercials here on the Brazilian TV. With you again! Who would have thought that would be possible? Well, we all know it’s possible. In your case nevertheless, things might have turned out quite different. I read you grew up near São Paolo, being very poor and all. Most people don’t make it out of there like you, rather they work in the local convenience store or at the McDonald’s.

However, you did end up working for the red M huh? Beautiful commercial with your son. And his hair, so blond! Wouldn’t you like some of that? Haha, just kidding. I was wondering though, if you considered what you are actually representing? The thing is, at McDonald’s they sell burgers, fries, and other processed food. It has been proven over and over, that those are major causes of the biggest killers in the world. No, that’s not Osama Bin-Laden. They are: heart’s disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Is that really what you want to represent?

Then, the other day, I saw that you build an institute in your hometown. Amazing, that you are investing in the lives of the people you grew up with. Providing them with better opportunities, education and sports facilities. You seem to have your heart in the right place.

At this moment I wonder therefore, if you know which people suffer the most from eating the garbage you represent? To make it easy for you, the people with little income. Like the ones in your hometown. So, on the one hand you do this beautiful thing for your community. Where on the other hand, you stimulate the same people to eat glorified plastic by appearing in every commercial with a big red M above your head. Have you ever looked at it from this perspective?

I believe this awareness to go a long way, also because your life isn’t the only one filled with contradictions. I even write about it regularly, here on my blog. If you want your weekly fix of awareness provoking and healthy lifestyle inducing information, just enter your e-mail address on the right here. You will receive my newest blog right in your inbox! Maybe it will help you with future decisions.

That’s all for now. The only thing I still want to mention is; please, score some goals against Serbia, and get Brazil to the finals. As things go, there is nothing worse than being around Brazilians when they have just seen their favorite person in the world fall a thousand times, without making any goals.

Good luck!

Joël

ps. something I have always wanted to know; when you play FIFA, do you always play yourself, or rather Messi or C. Ronaldo

Connect To Change

In recent times I have acquired a different view on what change means and how it works. Generally change is understood as I am changing. The fact that we use it as a verb however, does not mean I am the subject of the process. We have created a world where I am the center of my story, and every other person of theirs. Be it in evolution or in nature. We tend to forget nevertheless, that there is a lot more than me, you and us in this world. Not everything is palpable, but it is does affect everyone, including the world around us.

The idea that change is something that should be initiated by me, is exactly what has come to struck me as odd. Once I relieve myself of the idea, change is not as surprising, confusing, and confronting anymore. The world within and around me is always moving, even without my conscious interference. Nevertheless, when my attention is needed I can trust my body, mind and environment to communicate with me. I will feel uncomfortable the moment I start walking wrong.

Change Signals

The signals I receive however, are not always directly pointing at it’s origin. Feelings of insecurity and general discomfort might arise as a consequence of a toxic relationship. Then, when we take a look at our environment; we tend to develop strong connections with the places we live in, and work at. A new environment we tend to compare to what we already know, instead of viewing it as it is. A stimulus that might indicate our environment demands change, does not necessarily need to come from my (social) environment. This might just as well be back pain, confusion or a lack of sleep.

The confusion that arises as a consequence of these change signals, I believe to be the result of the values and thoughts we hold towards them. Originating more from our formal education, upbringing and social environment’s values, than they are our own. Therefore, to synchronize with this process can be confronting before it is liberating. To realize that the direction I am moving, is different than what I have always perceived as important, can be unbalancing.

Letting Change Happen

The gain is though, that once I engage with the process instead of resisting it, life gets interesting around every turn. This perception of change is something that results in no day being the same. To run with it is not only highly satisfying, I believe it is also a trainable capacity. Noticing every signal for what it is when it comes to my awareness, will allow me to engage quicker in this unfolding, and with less insecurities. Ultimately, I know that change is not solely a capacity, but rather a synonym to life.

 

The Power of a Shower

I come home after 9 months of travelling, experiencing barely what I wanted beforehand, but everything I needed. I changed my perspective on a million of subjects, I learned new languages, I met amazing people, I found a new home, I saw amazing things and I enjoyed every day of it, even when I did not. Now, with all these memories continuously replaying in my head, I try to make sense of them. How can I, without diminishing the value of all that I experienced, incorporate this into a life that satisfies me.

Follow My Own Advice

In a previous blog, I wrote about having the guts to follow heart before brain. At this moment in time, I feel that I am at a point where it is essential that I follow my own advice. I notice that I have a certain vision regarding how I want to live my life and where I want to invest my energy. The thing is, there is a complete lack of structure nor a path to follow. I see no clear trajectory and nobody is telling me where to go. There is just a burning energy in my heart when it comes to the idea and purpose I derive from everything that I experienced.

Insecurities

When I start thinking (with my head brain) however, questions and insecurities instantly arise. What about money and what if I fail? After, I get stuck in these thought patterns that seem to have no way out of them. Once I shift my awareness back down to the heart though, everything seems really clear. I make the conscious decision to engage with, and live this feeling. What follows, is total evaporation of all the worries and doubts that were in my brain before. Instead of all the negative energy blocking my thoughts with impossibilities, it is now liberated and ideas start flowing around automatically.

It is interesting to see how efficient it is to thrive upon heartfelt energy. Once I accept it’s presence it seems that it overrules what goes on in the brain. The insecurity (and therefore lack of courage) that blocks this process is a quality of the gut brain however (more on that here).

Realizations In The Shower

What helped initiate this shift was a simple conversation between two man that I watched. The shower after, allowed me to process this: how turning to the age of fifty had provoked changes in the two talking to what was really important in life. Then, in the shower after all, is one of these moments we are usually alone with our thoughts. Even when we are unable to find time during the day to find a moment of tranquility, every person with a shower still has one.

This made me realize, that I want to value life exactly like that. I am 26 years old, far from turning fifty, but I do not feel that I should wait with acting upon this realization until then. Nevertheless, here is another reason to be insecure. If everybody starts realizing these things with fifty, am I not missing something if I am contemplating similar thoughts right now? Then I remember however, have the guts to follow heart before brain.

Behavioral Change Step 2: Changing Perspective

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. Last week, in the first blog on this subject, I broke down how I execute the first step in this process. I try to increase my awareness by maintaining a questioning attitude in the present, at the same time using passed experiences to better direct the already achieved mindset.

So, once I am aware of something that requires change, like the way I eat, the way I feel when somebody talks to me, or how I perceive the relationship with my friends, this is easily kept at the front of my mind. However, to actually do something with this newly acquired perspective, asks for a different plan of action.

Before I can use any of the newly acquired outlooks, I believe it is necessary to accept this new information. As things go, we have a tendency to resist change. Both our minds and bodies thrive on structure, rhythm and safety. A change of perspective however, puts all of our habits under pressure. Therefore, our first line of defense is often any form of denial.

Where it might be hard to actually keep questioning to increase awareness and change perspective, it often is not that hard to come up with alternative views just to keep our current state of mind in place. I know that next to accepting a newly perceived view I also have to accept any forms of denial that follow. Just like I try to not let fear dictate my decisions by accepting the sensation when it occurs, I know that dealing with denial is best done the same way.

The way I follow up on a change of perspective, is to consciously revalue a certain mindset. One time an increase in importance of a certain idea might be needed, whereas in another moment it’s importance should be decreased. I remember one time where I did this with a lot of purpose. There was a time when I was feeling guilty for my “laziness” (I also wrote about this in an Instagram post). I had the feeling I was not being productive and therefore should actively pursue a goal to change this. Until I realized, that this idea and the feelings resulting from it were nothing of my own creation. Instead I worked out that it was rather the way the society I grew up and worked in were making me think along these lines.

When I arrived at this point I literally had a f*ck that! moment with so much presence that it never returned. Here I succeeded in revaluing this feeling and therefore changing the way it affected me. After that, I never felt lazy again. In the beginning there were some moments where I had to reinforce this outlook, but apart from that, it stuck.

In this case the life I was living was fully supportive of the ability to change. There were no stimuli from my environment confusing my thoughts and there was sufficient support around to talk about these subjects. Before I started traveling though, this was not the case. Work, sports and day to day sucked up a lot of my energy. Even though, I was being aware that I disagreed with the reigning work ethic, I did not have any headspace, nor energy left to get to the bottom of this feeling.

The optimal state to use newly acquired awareness, seems to be one of tranquility and ease. In my last blog I actually concluded that a similar state is also where an increase of awareness is achieved. However, when we are living our everyday life this state of mind rarely occurs when we not actively seek it.

The idea that we are only doing something when we physically move or are working towards a goal is something deeply wired in our society. Not only does it discredit the value of doing “nothing”, it also seems that when we live as expected there is hardly any space to form ourselves along a trajectory that we want. Fitting in is more important than personal authentic growth.

I know that it is up to every person for themselves to ascribe the value that they think any idea is worth. What for the one person is a life altering perspective change might for the other be just another day in the life. I believe it important though, that the values should be of my own creation. Not from my parents, nor society, nor my friends.

Regardless of the value I end up giving to any idea, there is no good or bad. Also, it does not need to be forever. I am free to change my mindset any time.

Behavioral Change Step 1: Increasing Awareness

I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. When I notice that something does not fit or feel right, the first step is, to become aware of it’s origin. After, there is the challenge of fully realizing this new knowledge in to an alternative mindset.

I thought it would be interesting to break down this process, that I myself have gone through so many times already. From becoming aware to integrating new views, hopefully inspiring you to do the same when you think it necessary.

In this first part I will explain how I try to increase my own awareness to make me see things I would like to view, do, or feel differently about. For me this is the first step to adjusting perspective. Without awareness I would just keep living a misty reality where everything seems devised and uncontrollable.

I believe that awareness comes with regular discomfort. Accepting that I know nothing, even when I think I do, enables me to learn new outlooks. When I go out of my way to talk to different people, trying things I never did before and saying yes to the unknown all provoke this widening of my view.

Also, I try to keep questioning the world around me. Even when things seem totally obvious it is all the more important to do so. As things go, that is the moment I get comfortable in my current reality. Even though, I recreate my reality every second. This means that when I start believing in something to be the way it is, it inhibits my capacity to adjust. I start living an irrelevant version of a past me that has nothing to do with my current state of affairs.

Where it can be hard to actively practice awareness, there are often experiences that we can use to grow up on. They can be as simple as becoming aware that it is hard to cut with the backside of a knife, or the moment that our partner is angry with us. Both of these experiences can induce a contemplative state that might change our outlook to how we use a knife or what kind of person we are in relation to somebody else.

Furthermore, reading books, travelling, changing jobs, and trying a new sport, amongst other things, might all induce a similar reflective state. I think that everything we do is actually changing our perspective continuously. However, we tend to be so stuck in our habits that we need a relatively strong stimulus to let go of our past selves. Still, if I stay present in everything I do, it is easier to realize it’s meaning.

In my own case, travelling really helped me with shifting perspective. I was definitely aware of how certain things were not making me happy or limiting my feelings and outlook. At that time though, I did not have the capacity to fully realize the cause. Upon entering a different environment there was a reduction of stimuli pulling me in different directions. This freed up space to do something with the thoughts already floating around. This calm presence with my thoughts turned out to be the missing link.

Where I summed up a couple of things that might induce a change of outlook before. There are also certain things that you can do to stay more present. I believe for me the easiest and at the same time the most underestimated one, is to literally do nothing. When there is nothing but me and my mind present, stuff already starts sorting itself out. To increase the power of these moments I sometimes use breathing exercises or meditation to calm my mind and become even more present with my thoughts.

To sum this all up I think that to increase my awareness, a questioning and accepting attitude is a prerequisite. Where it always starts with one question, usually there are a lot to follow. In the meantime there remains the challenge to not get lost in the maze that is our material life. Rather, developing awareness time and time again to get to a more fundamental level.

There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Body

I have recently been reflecting a lot on how I view body, mind and soul. And most of all, what is considered normal and what is not in this regard. Consecutively, I started reflecting on how I come to my decision in any health-related situation. The main thing I do, I realized, is that I always look for the why? behind my current state of mind and body. This thought process always evaluates how I felt the days before, what I ate, how I exercised, how I slept and what kind of stress is influencing me at this moment. Answering all these questions often lead me to seeing why I feel a certain way and make it easier to (not) respond accordingly after.

Most importantly though, by answering all these questions for myself I come to a logical conclusion. Therefore, the way I am feeling is reasonable and normal given the circumstances. When I drink too little during the day, the headache at night is a reasonable consequence. When I drink enough during the day, but I slept too little the night before, a headache at night is also reasonable. The origin and consequence here are quite easy to find.

However, when I increase the time span and the factors in play it gets harder to see the origin and consequence of how I am feeling. For example, I am 50 years old, I sat the majority of my life working a desk-job with medium to high stress levels, and I eat a lot of low quality processed food. After, I get diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease, is this reasonable? Or, when I play 3 soccer matches in one week and I tear one of my calf muscles, is this normal?

Yes, I believe this is all normal. Put any given person in the same situation with the same life and history and their bodies will most likely respond the same. So when I fracture my upper leg, when I have a headache, when I sub luxate my shoulder or when I get diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes, Heat Disease or COPD is there anything wrong with my body?

No, nothing is wrong with my body. My body is responding in a logical and reasonable way to how I treat it. The moment I should be worried though, is when I can hold my hand in a fire without hurting it or when I can run for 40 hours at sprint speed. In any case, the awareness of this interaction is probably also why, I realized, I have such little problems with experiencing pain (I wrote about this here). Seeing these connections makes me aware of which behavior led to which feeling, and it allows me to accept and deal with the situation without feeling lost. Above all, viewing things this way, means that when I change the way I treat my body for the better, it will respond appropriately.

There are times though, when it gets really hard to see how things are connected. There might be too many things going on in my life and too many thoughts in my head. Recently, I experienced a severe headache unrelated to dehydration or sleep. Also, I had recently been sick but I had been feeling better a lot already. More over, there were other physical and mental factors at play that made me confused and unable to find the reason for my headache.

In these cases, it is great there is a healthcare system at most people’s disposal to aid in circumstances like these. The problem is though, that the most sought after health care professional generally treats symptoms, not origins. Next to that, to look for the why? behind any given problem is not a common thing. In this process we tend to be afraid when something is wrong and we want it fixed as soon as possible. Luckily, in this situation there is always a doctor willing to prescribe medication. Nevertheless, is this the solution for our problem?

Instead of prescribing medication, asking a couple of times why? will go a long way. Usually the origin of any given problem is quite obvious once there is somebody helping you putting your behavior in to perspective. Still, from my point of view, it is more the way our healthcare system is set up, what leads to the inefficient way of treating problems, than it is how the individual healthcare provider works. However, I believe that regardless of whatever healthcare system I am subject to, my independence is key. I know what is best for my body, as soon as I become aware of it.

Therefore, to be the director in everything regarding my body is important. We should not blindly belief anybody that makes decisions about our health. Rather, we should put everything to the test, educate ourselves, practice awareness and always ask for multiple opinions. In the meantime, always keeping the two core beliefs in mind. Being that the way I take care of my body has logical consequences, and these consequences are therefore normal. After all, nobody but me has to live with my body all my life.

Value and Money (2)

Last week I wrote the first part of this two part blog post. There, I wrote about how my vision on money has changed over time. In this second blog post on the subject, I will explain how I try to incorporate this vision to find the right balance between value and money in my life.

Starting off, I believe it most important that I should not be afraid to be without money. Or if I have money, to lose it. In a recent blog post on fear-based life, I wrote about how fear can corrupt my behavior and does not serve me at all except for life threatening situations. This is not the case though, when it comes to losing or not having money. Nevertheless, I am made to believe that only through money I can acquire what I need. Consequently, making me prone to be afraid of not having any, because I can not survive otherwise. However, this is not the case. The true things that seem to be allowing us to live long and happy are: purpose, social contact, physical activity and a balanced whole food diet. The question is then, for which of these do I really need money?

The more money I have though, the more afraid I tend to get. When I would barely have enough money to buy my food, I will only lose that option. But what if I have so much I can buy a Ferrari, a boat and a house? When I lose money then, it seems I am losing a lot more. That is the moment life stops right? I lost it all, or not? As soon as I start seeing that money is corrupting my worldview I can start making decisions based on value. At the same time I believe, that when I run out of money, helping hands will be extended from places I could not have imagined before.

The second thing that I think is essential, is to do something I believe is valuable. Then, if it really is, the people around me will eventually notice it’s value as well. Regardless if this is expressed in my job, the way I treat my friends or how I use my garden. I believe this mindset will eventually spread in to every part of my life. Consequently, because we created a society that expresses value in money, the things I do will eventually be payed for in some form.

Equally decisive though, in this process, is that I enjoy doing what I do. This is more true than it is cliché. If I want to live a life that is sustainable for me I should be motivated and content with what I am creating. This supports my creativity, reduces insecurity and fear, but above all attracts positivism from the world around me.

Then, another thing that is critical, is to let go of the idea of retirement. From my perspective, retirement is the biggest anticlimax built in to our working society. Not before my 65th birthday when my body starts failing me, I am “free” to do what I want. Ultimately living with the physical and mental consequences of having been enslaved to this idea all my life. However, when I disconnect my purpose from money and I am concentrating on creating value doing something I love, I see no reason to stop when I am 65. Simultaneously, when I am young and physically strong there are so many things to enjoy I can not at that time. I believe it better to use these opportunities now and to not worry about the effect this might have on my retirement. As things go, my future I am creating today.

My final point is, that I believe there is no gain above a certain living standard. Once I have a safe and comfortable place to live, hopefully in an area I love, quality food to enjoy, means of transport, and I am lucky enough to be able to acquire the usual technologies, I do not see my quality of life increasing after that. I can turn my Fiat in to a Jeep and my Huawei in to the newest Iphone, but what am I really gaining here? The amounts of money I need to spend only make me more afraid of what might happen because I spent so much in the first place.

I think everybody should find their own balance between value and money. Nevertheless, I believe it is important to take in to account the false perspective that was drawn in my life. When I break down these walls I am more free to chose my own direction. Maybe even taking in to account that all I need to live a happy healthy life is whole food, physical activity, social contact and purpose.

Value and Money (1)

The subject of value and money has been playing around my mind for a long time. How can I live without money being the main motivation in my decisions? This used to be an interesting discussion point among friends. At that time, I was already aware of how money corrupts life. Consecutively, I chose a standpoint that was more directed at denying the existence of money, than actually dealing with it the way it is. I usually ended up saying things like: “I don’t like money and our monetary system. I don’t want to think about it, and I rather have nothing to do with it”.

Where I grew up in North-Western Europe, it was easy to create convictions like these. As things go, the consequences of not having money I never experienced. Over there, I used to live in a protected society where people living on the street, still have better chances than the majority of the people living in this world.

Nevertheless, I still disagree on the value that we have given money. I do understand now though, that to live the life I want to, I have to accept at least part of the value we ascribe to it. Next, it also made me realize that I should value more what I already have. At the same time, not being afraid to seize the opportunities given to me. To live on an island alone, might solve the issue of having to deal with money. However, this would also mean that I lose the possibility on using the opportunities that result from having it. I realized that I rather try to show how to live and value money differently within society, than to live on the outside denying it as a whole.

When discussing this subject over the previous half year, people would often remind me that you have money. Even when I do not, there are friends, family and a safety net provided by the government waiting for me in the Netherlands. This means, that the lowest life standard experienced by me, will still be above what the majority of the world population currently enjoys. Now, it is not just that I am aware of these inequalities, I also was in situations where I actually experienced them. Consecutively, the aforementioned comments sometimes made me feel guilty. It is quite easy for me to be critical of the monetary system, while being on the safe side within it. Should I not be living on the street to give my ideas some real credit? I concluded in the end, that I do not need to.

The awareness of the fact that I am positively predisposed in our world, just because I grew up in North-Western Europe, has made me realize that every opportunity I get is worth twice as much. Also, it does not make sense to me to live a life where I feel sorry for the chances other people did not get. It is easy to develop depressed feelings living with this awareness. I do believe however, that by showing that I can live happy with my values, there is a higher chance that somebody else copies them. There are enough people feeling depressed and unsatisfied already. Regardless, of the amount money in their bank account. Interestingly, a lot of people feeling this way in developed countries, turn out to be in some way or another, enslaved to the idea that money holds value.

In reality though, money by itself has no value. It only holds value as long as we believe it. The 50 euro note is not worth anything by itself. I can hardly hold it up to stop the rain from dropping on my head, or to use it as paper to write an important message upon. A thick woolen sweater on the other hand, will warm my body if I believe it or not, just like a roof on top of my house will keep me dry and a banana will always be able to provide my body with energy. As long as I keep believing money holds value by itself though, it is hard to put it into perspective. Once I flip this idea, I might be able to find ways to not see money as the sole condition to acquire anything of value.

In conclusion this means, as long as I want to be part of the current world we live in, I believe that I cannot deny that money exists nor cut it out of life entirely.  However, I can change the value it holds in my own life. If everybody else still thinks it is the most important base to decide upon, does not mean it should be for me.

Next week I will continue with this topic and explain how I try to find the right balance between value and money in my life.

 

What Is Authenticity?

Two blog posts ago I wrote about why I started Quest for Authenticity and I will now continue to explore what authenticity means and how I think going on this quest has already helped me live a more fulfilling life.

Awareness

To me, the thing that stands out most strikingly in this process, is the importance of becoming aware of what is ours in our lives, and what is not. Consequently, it is possible to make a conscious decision on what we would like to include and what to exclude. Because, from the moment  we enter this world up to this very moment there has been, and will be, continuous input from both inside and outside ourselves. Regardless of the origin of these inputs, their effects on us are all equally real. The problem is though, that in most cases nobody teaches us how to deal with all of these inputs.

When we zoom out though, it becomes visible that a lot of these inputs are results of a societal belief-system rather than the result of personal needs. In western society, our culture has become increasingly materialistic and focused on education, money, and performance whereas in Middle-Eastern society, for example, a more traditionally family oriented belief-system is still in place. The result in both occasions, however, is that we end up living lives that we think are ours but are actually far from it.

Authenticity as a Painting

I like to think of this way of life as a painting. When we are born we actually have a blank painting, nevertheless society drew all the lines already. The way it is now, we are only allowed to color in our painting. The idea of finding your own authentic way of life though is, to look at your painting and question every color and line in there. Is this what I want it to look like? Where after you can decide to keep it in this way, change it or erase it, leaving space for something new.

What is Normal?

Currently though, the first thing that will be decided on is whether we are normal or not normal. Normal in this case means that we are allowed to start the path into society along the most convenient way – starting in kindergarten until we get our degree. Subsequently, we are eligible to start producing and consuming to keep the bubble of our western society floating.

However, if you are not qualified as normal, you will either have to become normal by doing therapy, using medication or just pretending to be. After this, you might still be eligible to enter the “regular” path of life. If this still does not work out, there is an alternative trajectory which reduces your chances of a free life in almost every way. The criteria for normal and not normal vary depending on where you are from. In some cases skin color or the amount of money is already enough to put you in one of the categories, while in other cases a certain mental health status might determine your trajectory.

However, the way we view skin color, mental health, body composition, physical capacity and book-learning capabilities are all labels and measurements created by us humans. We have defined what is normal and what is not normal. This way, the reigning paradigm can be kept in place easier, and threats to it can be suppressed and quarantined. Think of all the medication prescribed for certain mental health “disorders”. In this, we are made to believe that there is only one reality, and that is the one that is systematically being forced upon us. At the same time we get the false idea that all of this is necessary for our own well-being.

So when we realize this we can come to a point where we might decide to view things a little differently. We can start changing, erasing and refilling parts of the painting of life. Do you agree with the normal – not normal division? Do you think that money is more important than health? Do you agree with the amount of hours we have to work every week? Do you agree with school being more important than playing at home? Do you agree with the idea that somebody who finished his Masters’ degree is smarter than somebody quitting high-school? And do you agree with the idea that when you are not working you are not productive?

These and a million other normal things within our western society are results of this belief-system silently agreed upon. However, when we become aware of this and actively use this awareness, we can make a conscious decision on anything in life. Therefore, my Quest for Authenticity is really about reviewing these concepts and to decide on their part in my life. While there are both useful and useless things to our western society, both of them are there without question until you start questioning them for yourself, and start to paint your own painting.

Redefining Continuously

Personally, in this on-going process I am redefining concepts like the importance of work, time, laziness, health, and money. I am trying to reduce the influence of the latter in my decision taking, by looking for alternatives when it comes to spending it.

Also, feelings of insecurity and fear I try to accept and retrace to it’s origin. These feelings are often based on non-personal beliefs and wreak havoc in my behavior and decision-making capabilities. Seeing them for what they are it is easier to reduce their influence. Still, there are so many other things that I at least try to approach without any preconception, until there is a moment I need to decide on the value of a certain idea. Because, the idea that once we have defined something that this is forever, is an invention of ours as well. We are actually free to redefine our authenticity at any moment.