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Four Reasons You're Living an Inauthentic Life (and How to Fix Them for Authentic Living)

Our core values are things we hold deeply. To live an authentic life, our actions, decisions and investments must be aligned with those values. Otherwise, we live inauthentically--and wonder why we feel a lack of purpose or personal meaning.

Black Mask smallerMany are out of alignment with their true values because:

  1. They never stopped to identify them (if you don't know your values, you can't live in alignment with them)
  2. They're living according to someone else's values (parents, teachers, peers, culture, religion, media)
  3. They've outgrown past values (yep, your values can--and do--change!)
  4. They've deemed some of their true values as frivolous, embarrassing or immoral

Have you took the time to consider a host of values so you can drill down to figure out yours? My free list of values for you to explore will help you determine your core values. Click here to grab it from DropBox. 

Do any of the values on the list make your blood boil? Stirs your heart? Makes you wish the world would change to reflect? These are important clues as to what you really, truly value.

When examining the list and narrowing down potential values, ask yourself: "Is this really my value? Or is it one my religion says I should have? Did I pick this up from the media as something trendy or important--or perhaps this is a value my Mom, Dad, favorite teacher or culture holds dear?"

Believe it or not, your values can change. What you value at age 20 may not be what you value at age 50. As you change, your values may change. This could be because of a life-altering event such as serious illness, natural catastrophe, accident, loss of a loved one or a pandemic. Or, on the happier end, a joyful marriage, new baby, job promotion, spiritual epiphany or positive lifestyle changes.

Lastly, some people discount a deeply held value because they're embarrassed about it. Perhaps a religious tradition deemed certain values "bad" or "immoral"--like Wealth, Achievement, Fame or even Beauty. But no value on the list I provided is "bad" or "good"; they're all neutral. If you have a core value, you can't just say "Well, I don't value that" when, in fact, you do hold it dear. 

Hands out800
Ignoring or sublimating it will just make you miserable--and you'll likely act and choose according to your value anyway, even if subconsciously. Your inner critic will then likely eat at you, shaming you for pursuing that value (let alone think about it). 

So it's time to come clean. Figure out your deeply held values. 

Your values. No one else's.

Then, start making choices--and spending time and money--on those values.

That is what authenticity is: living according to your core values. 

What about you, dear reader? Care to share your values? Need help discerning what your core values are? Noticing values you thought were yours--but aren't? Weigh in down below in the comments!

P.S. If you truly detest one of your core values, then you can always drill even deeper and ask yourself why that value is important to you. This is one of the things I can help with as a Life Purpose Coach.

Crafting a Life Purpose Icon


Life purpose is a choice rather than an experience. It’s something we decide about life.” – Dr. Eric Maisel

Just coming off the Christmas/Yule holiday, many have watched the perennial favorite It’s a Wonderful Life

But, what if you’re not aiming for a wonderful life but, rather, a meaningful one?

For years, I’ve been a big fan of psychologist and creativity coach Dr. Eric Maisel. His books The Van Gogh Blues, Affirmations for Artists and Toxic Criticism are unparalleled.

But the book penned by him that I’ve found the most helpful has been Life Purpose Boot Camp: The 8-Week Breakthrough Plan for Creating a Meaningful Life. If you’ve ever struggled with existential angst—particularly questions of personal meaning, and especially if you’re a creative of any type—I feel you’d benefit greatly from this book (I know I have).

In the Myers-Briggs typology, the profiles most likely to experience this kind of angst are NFs (iNtuitive Feelers). The combination of the imaginative, idealistic and OMG-all-the-potential! of the iNtuitve persuasion coupled with Feeling’s subjectivity and relativism is a brew that flails, quests, gropes and/or gnashes the teeth in the search for meaning.

You can watch a brief interview about how to articulate life purpose below:

The interviewer asks Dr. Maisel for some examples of life purposes. He offered these:

  • Activism
  • Service
  • Strong Relationships
  • Creativity
  • Doing the Next “Right” Thing (Living According to One’s Principles)
  • Making Value-Based Meaning

It can be in “menu” form (listing what’s important to you)—or in crafting statements that encompass several things (incorporating values from your “menu” of life purposes).

And, what we find meaningful five years ago (or even last year) may not be all that meaningful this year.

As we change, so do our values, priorities and—yes—our life purposes.

Dr. Maisel goes on to stress that the most important component to meaningful living is to orient yourself, each day, towards your life purpose.

In the interview—and in Week 7 of the book—he explains how to create what he calls a Life Purpose Icon—a tangible image (or symbol) that captures your life purpose choices.

Just a universal symbols like a cross, Star of David or pentagram evoke great significance and associations for some religious folks, a personal symbol can also become a strong icon anchoring us in our deepest values—as well as a motif leading us to our best selves and a life full of meaning. (I just got an image of Batman’s Bat Signal glowing in the sky… Ha!).

So taking Dr. Maisel’s examples from the interview, how might we distill those life purposes into icons? Well, it will be personal, of course. But here are some symbols that I’ve brainstormed:

Activism – A symbol hinting at the type of activism, perhaps? Social justice may be Scales. Environmentalism might be a Tree. Animal rights could be a favorite furry, scaled or feathered creature. Non-violent resistance could be a peace sign. Some health advocates associate colors with particular diseases they’d like raise awareness for (e.g. pink for breast cancer, purple for Alzheimer’s, red for AIDS, multi-color puzzle piece of Autism, etc.).

Service – An outstretched hand? Connecting hands? A wrench?

Strong Relationships – A chain? Two tethered hearts? Stick people in a circle?

Creativity – Painter’s palette? Quill pen? Musical notes? Light bulb?

Doing the Next “Right” Thing (Living According to One’s Principles) – Exclamation mark? Check mark? Asterisk? Justice or Judgement Tarot card?

Obviously, there’s no wrong way to create a Life Purpose Icon because it’s personal—whatever is meaningful to you.

In this vein, choosing a Word of the Year (or three words) is another way to focus on what truly matters to you. Over at, Megy Karydes shares her 5 Tips on Crafting an Inspirational Mantra (that you can use all year long).  For some, this method is more goal-oriented rather than meaning-oriented—but you can still use it to distill your chosen life purposes.

At, Rose Spinks encourages us NOT to make New Year’s Resolutions (she calls them a “scam”) but, instead, create what she calls a Life Thesis. I love how she sums up her article:

As it turns out, when you take away expectations and shame and pressure, humans tend to be rather intelligent about choosing what’s good for them. Chances are, if you craft a thesis that truly honors what you want your life to look like, your daily habits and actions will align to create that life, too. It’ll feel less like a moving target, and more like finding your center of gravity.

After seeing three Tarot books published in 2018 (!)—five full-length books in the last ten years—I feel a drawing towards process. I’m moving away from words and mandates like “productivity”, “publicity”, “sales”, “accomplishment”, “professional” and “business”. In fact, as I was talking earlier this evening to my husband (about, what else…meaning!—especially in terms of art), I uttered the phrase No End In Mind.

That is, play. Creativity for creativity’s sake. Enjoying the journey without a destination.

You don’t see a 3-year-old ponder self-worth, artistic prowess or marketability, right?

My values are changing. Have changed.

And so are some of my Life Purposes.

I’ll make some icons to reflect those—as touchstones for the upcoming year. Reminders of where I’m at now (not where I was, or even where I think I want to be).

What about you, dear Reader? Have you pondered your Life Purposes lately? Made choices as to what they are? Or even created icons, symbols or talismans to reflect those Life Purposes? Do share in the comments below!

-- Janet

How to Define Your Values

Below is an excerpt of my eBook New Year, New You. I hope you find it helpful!

In her fascinating book The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One, author Margaret Lobenstine writes: “People who aren’t fully committed to the values that their activities represent sputter through life, pulled in one direction by their commitments and in another by their spirits.”

Many directions
© Stuart Miles

A good portion of existential angst and internal conflict arises from misalignment between values and actions. We can say we value X, Y, Z—but if our actions show we actually value D, F and G…well, there’s disharmony.

Why do we make decisions and engage in behaviors that conflict with our core values? Two reasons:

1. We don’t even know our values

2. We’re (unconsciously) living someone else’s values (that we adopted as our own)

So how do we figure out our values—and know if they’re truly ours…or if they come from outside our core?

First, you must be brutally honest with yourself. What you really, truly value may very well conflict with what your family, religion, friends, teachers, community or society at large values. Here’s a list of things individuals value. There is no “right” or “wrong” value. And, even if you try to deem something “wrong”, or “useless” or “shallow” (often unconsciously), that doesn’t mean that you still don’t truly value it. This is why you must be honest about identifying your current values.

Note that I said “current”. This is because our values are not set in stone. What you value at age 20 won’t necessarily be what you value at age 40, 60 or 80.

Below is a list of over 50 values (many taken from Lobenstines’s book). If you can think of others, feel free to add to the list. Read over them, contemplate them and pick out at least five. You can compare this list against your feelings and preferences, as well as the results from the Writing and Collage exercises above to discern what you truly value. Also, compare this list against your answers from the Archetypes section and the personality types (if you’ve spotted yours).

Painting q
© graur razvan ionut

Achievement. Affection. Appearance. Approval. Arts. Authority. Beauty. Career. Community. Creativity. Environment. Expertise. Fame. Family. Freedom (personal). Freedom (political). Generosity. Health (emotional). Health (physical). Home. Honesty. Integrity. Learning. Leisure. Love. Loyalty. Meaning. Money. Openness. Patriotism. Personal Growth. Pleasure. Progress. Popularity. Power. Privacy. Recognition. Relationships. Religion. Reputation. Respect. Risk-Taking. Security. Serenity. Social Acceptance. Socializing. Solitude. Spiritual Development. Status. Time. Winning. Wisdom.

If your decisions, goals and dreams are out of alignment with your core values, you will feel conflicted and unhappy. If you think about it, you can substitute the word “success” with “values”—because what you want (and need) to feel successful are directly connected to what you value.

Look at the five (or more) values you’ve selected. Ask yourself “What does that look like?

What does “Community” look like to you? What about “Expertise”, “Family”, “Leisure”, “Risk-Taking”, “Solitude” and “Spiritual Development”—or whatever your personal values are?

Now, let’s try to determine if your activities—how you spend your time—are reflecting your values…or someone else’s.

Take a piece of paper and draw two lines to make three separate columns. At the top of the first column, write down Actions. At the top of the second column, write down Justification (it’s your reason for doing it). At the top of the third column, write Whose Values?.

List your hobbies, volunteer efforts, job tasks, commitments, errands, pursuits, daily habits and goals in the first column.

In the second column, write down your justification for each action. Why do you go to the gym every day, for example? Is it because it makes you feel strong and healthy? Or do you do it because you want to appear fit? Or because you like socializing with other exercisers? Or maybe it helps you get out of the house? Or perhaps because your mother is thin, and always remarks that “You’re looking chunky lately”?

© stockimages

Another example:

You clean your house, top to bottom, every Saturday. Is your justification that you like (and need) a clean house? Or just that you’ve always done it, ever since you’ve been on your own? Or that you’re mother’s a clean freak—and gives your house the white glove test when she comes over?

In the third column, write down if the Action in column one reflects YOUR values—or THEIRS (external influence). You can write “Mine” if it’s yours—and “Theirs” if it’s from someone else.

Let’s say your justification for cleaning house every Saturday is “because that’s what I’ve always done”. Look deeper. Whose value is that? Is it because your Mom values a clean house? And may criticize you if it’s less than sparkling?

Then, it’s THEIRS (or HERS)—not yours.

Another example: You go to church twice every Sunday and once Wednesday night (Action). What’s your justification for attending church three times a week? Whose values does this attendance reflect?

Sometimes, the Whose Values? column may be BOTH (Mine and Theirs). And that’s fine.

But if you have actions, goals, decisions and dreams that aren’t reflecting YOUR values—then you’ve discovered why some endeavors feel boring, disempowering or useless. Consider what you’ll gain by eliminating them from your life. Time? Energy? Peace of mind? Harmony? Relief?

-- Janet

The Cost of Pursuing Dreams

Reaper shadowThe other day, I saw a guy on Facebook complaining that his wife wanted him to come to bed...but he wanted to spend more time blogging. He looked to be in his early 20s. He was asking this private group for input on "what he should do". 

Having survived widowhood and seeing too many people die in my presence, I made the observation that his blog won't be the one standing by his bedside as he exhaled his dying breath.

A business man quipped "Yeah, but with the divorce rate, you're not even guaranteed your spouse will be there, either."


There's a biblical saying that has universal import: What is it if a man gains the whole world and loses his own soul?

Fundies interpret this as a heaven vs. hell dilemma, but from a mystical, archetypal point of view, the true question posed is this: If you go after a "big dream" (or series of dreams)--and accomplish them--will you end up satisfied? Fulfilled? Happy? Whole?

Or will it be like the funny bumper sticker riff on a popular phrase that states He who dies with the most toys still dies?

Earlier today, I read a post by my Tarot colleague Tierney Sadler called Making the Tough Decisions. I understand what she's putting forth and, to an extent, I agree. 

Maid 400For example, my Mom was a homemaker who--other than church--never really took up any hobbies. When my Dad died last year, she found herself a bit lost...and bored. I tried to encourage her to "get a life" a few years ago (you know what I mean) when I saw my Dad's health declining.

But no dice. As she had for decades, she felt responsible to be there at home 24/7 except for church functions--including cooking 3 meals a day (she was born in the June Cleaver era). 

So I really hear what Tierney is saying. And yes, we women need to pursue our dreams--which may include sacrifice. But, with all do respect--and I don't mean this offensively--Tierney isn't married, nor does she have children. Both of these states profoundly changes the decision-making landscape.

Yet, I also know what it is to live with someone who pursued his dream at a very high cost. 

My first husband was a first chair classical trumpet player and jazz instrumentalist. Through the music of Phil Driscoll (a Christian trumpet player), John got turned on to a man named Roy Roman. He discovered that Roy taught a "no pressure" trumpet method which would allow musicians to play for hours without "blowing out" their lips (and reaching the high notes).

Turned on by his dream, we left college after four years and no degree, then moved in with John's father. He refused to get a job so he could practice this "trumpet method". For two years, we lived off the "kindness of strangers" and sold things while I starved and studied the Bible...and he played these godawful exercises based on a VHS tape for two years. (Click here to see a sample.)

I still remember being so hungry and my first husband finally agreeing to visit a local diner for a fish sandwich. We stayed in the car and I had to half it with him. I don't believe I ever savored a meal so much in my life (after living off fried cabbage and hotdogs for weeks).

Imagine listening to that for 8 hours a day in one room? Although we lived in a 2-story house, my father-in-law was a serial maturbator who loved to use Vaseline and electric pumps at all hours--greasy doorknobs everywhere. Not to mention the crazy transsexual porn I'd find stuffed in the basement toilet (did he really think those images would flush?).

So, I stayed cooped up in our bedroom for two years while John not only played those exercises, but put any cash handouts we received towards personal phone lessons with Roy--at $65 a pop for for 30 minutes (this was 20 years ago, mind you).

John Playing for Our Wedding

We couldn't apply for welfare because they wanted to know John's Dad's income and info...even if we didn't use his resources. So that was a no-go.

Because I pored over the want ads, I finally found a church in need of a pastor. We got the pastoring gig and, even then, John would put hours and hours and thousands of dollars into learning this "method". When he didn't do that, it was all church stuff and trying to save souls. 

All while I languished in the living room wondering how I could get a life with no money and a 1988 Buick that was so big it may as well be a boat (in the mountainous regions of PA, no less).

Long story short, my husband died trying to learn that damn method. Five years of our marriage--and countless dollars--down the drain. He even asked the doctors if he could bring the trumpet in with him to practice in the hospital when he was diagnosed with leukemia. They said yes, but in a cruel twist of fate, John passed out in the shower because no nurses were attending him--falling face first into the ceramic toilet. He busted all his front teeth and shattered his mouth bones. He would have bled to death with his 300,000+ white count if it wasn't for a nurse that just happened to be standing outside and heard the fall. 

I happened to be back home because of the emergency diagnosis that gobsmacked us and had me scrambling to tie up some domestic stuff so I could live with him at the city hospital for 6 weeks during chemo--or else I would have been watching him like a hawk. It was the only day I wasn't with him during his treatment.


John Prom
Before Leukemia
John Chemo
After Leukemia

Even after John got his dentures and thought he "beat" leukemia, he still kept trying to learn that method and spent an enormous amount of money for those lessons (Roy Roman happened to be one of those "prosperity preachers", so he knew our financial situation...but didn't give a damn). By then, John was on Social Securit disability (thanks to my efforts). Otherwise, we would have been up shit creek yet again...

To say I was severely neglected, emotionally tormented and physically malnourished would be an understatement.

You know, I didn't intend to share all this. But I guess it finally needed to see the light of day.

I don't have all the answers, but I do challenge you to think about your creative pursuits--including what it costs if you do pursue them, what it might cost if you don't...and what it might cost your loved ones.

Only you can weigh your soul against your life path to determine if it's right for you, worth the price you may have to pay. 

-- Janet

10 Reasons Your Life Might Suck

One of the best Mind/Body/Spirit books I've ever read is Why Your Life Sucks by Alan Cohen. The guy is just freakin' brilliant. 

I've already reviewed this book (7 years ago, no less!), but thought I'd share the ten reasons underscoring Cohen's premise of suckage:

SucksReason 1: You give your power away

Reason 2: You expect it to suck

Reason 3: You get fooled by appearances

Reason 4: You waste your energy on things that suck

Reason 5: You keep trying to prove yourself

Reason 6: You say yes when you mean no

Reason 7: You think you have to do it all yourself

Reason 8: You try to fix other people

Reason 9: You starve your soul

Reason 10: You forgot to enjoy the ride

If there's a Bible to contentment, I'm pretty sure this book is it. 

-- Janet