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Authenticity: Tools to help you live authentically

Your life can be a result of you living according to your own values or the values of another.

The young adult years of my life found me struggling to make decisions that reflected what was important to me. I discovered why my own authenticity was important as I learned how to identify and utilize my values to live in an authentic way.

The steps below create a clear path to understanding the necessity of authenticity in your life:

  • List what is important to you.

  • Find your true values.

  • Make authentic decisions.



The risk of being lost is minimized when you have a map.


Children cannot wait to make decisions for themselves. I had a colleague years ago who said that the best thing about being an adult was being able to eat whatever and whenever he wanted. It is a pretty cool part of adulting. But, nobody really addresses the exhaustion that can come from making the decisions about what to eat and when to eat. Decisions are a hallmark of adulting and they have no end. In the beginning, it seems so exciting to not have a parent telling you what to do. In a short amount of time, the excitement about this ability turns to dread. You are soon calling the parents you didn’t want to be in charge of you just a week ago and asking for their opinion on what they think you should do.


In my early years of college, a professor gave me the task of finding our authenticity through the discovery of our values. The idea was to identify the characteristics, relationships, objects, and beliefs you valued in your life. To find this information, we were assigned to be free thinkers. We weren’t to get bogged down with consideration of what was important. We were to give ourselves one minute with a pen and paper and begin making the list. In the first few seconds, I listed several items and thought my list would be lengthy. But, as twenty seconds turned to thirty, my thoughts came slower to me. I sat there with a blank mind for the last 10 seconds of the assignment.


I returned to the next class, list in hand, ready to see what this would bring me. The professor explained that we would only be considering the first five things listed in our paper. Those were our values. This hardly seemed possible. I had at least twenty listed. How could he so cavalierly narrow my values down to five? He asked people to share what the exercise had been like for them. As each student began to share their experience, most mirrored my own. A flood of information followed by conscious thought began to dictate what we would write. The first five values were the ones that we didn’t even have to consider. They were ingrained in us and organically retrieved when we needed access to the concept of what was important in each of our lives. Within two weeks, it became apparent how I would use this knowledge in my life.


An annual tradition in the community I grew up in was attending the Strawberry Festival. It was great fun and I enjoyed this as a child. I was excited to take my own daughter to share the experience with her. I looked at my calendar and realized the festival was the same day as an extra credit on-site assignment for one of my classes. I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to get ahead in one of my classes. But, wouldn’t I be making a selfish decision if I chose school over time with my family? Not knowing how to weigh the options, I turned to the values exercise I had completed two weeks earlier. As I looked at the list and reviewed the first five items, it became clear how to proceed. At the top of the list was family. The school wasn’t even in the top 5. This didn’t mean school was of little importance to me. There were just other things that took a more prioritized spot in my life at that time. With confidence, I made the decision to forego the class assignment and attend the festival with my daughter. On the day of the festival, I never had the thought of wondering if I had made the right decision. I made a decision that aligned with my values. I was living life authentically. I still continue to use this practice. Yes, my values have changed throughout the years but the process of discovering who I am has remained the same.


Your authenticity can be found by doing the following three things:


List what is important to you.


The discovery of your values is the path to living an authentic life.

As I found what was important to me, it became clear how I would make decisions and navigate the various options in my life.

Your list will be created when you:

  • Get a pen and a piece of paper.

It’s not enough to think about what is important. You must be intentional about this. Having a pen and paper will allow you to focus on the writing rather than the thinking.

  • Set a timer for one minute.

A limited amount of time ensures you remain focused. Any more time will contribute to wandering thoughts and manipulation of your list.

  • List all things which are important to you in no particular order.

There is no designated order in which your values need to be recorded. Allow them to flow freely from you in the organic organization your mind creates.

  • Resist the urge to write out of conscious thought.

There will be moments in which you try to think about what should be important. Allow these thoughts to pass and return to a blank space where your mind only delivers answers rather than thoughts.

You will see what is important to you.

Find your true values.


How our brain initially organizes information gives an indication of significance.

As I reflected on the list, I noticed the first 5 were the most significant items to me. As I moved on, there were other important items that had a critical purpose in my life. However, those first five would be prioritized.


Your true values become apparent when you:

  • Notice the first 5 things you listed.

Reflect on these items. These are the values you will give priority to.

  • Without editing the list, consider the significance of their order.

Your brain’s organization of this information is organically created by what you prioritize in your beliefs.

  • Reflect on this list to see if it reflects what you believed about yourself.

Oftentimes, the list does not align with what we think about ourselves. The expectations you may have of yourself may not be reflected in your list.

  • Use this list to assist in decision-making.

As you come upon decisions to be made, find your list and utilize this to determine what areas are priorities in your life.

You will know your priorities.

Make authentic decisions.


By making decisions that align with what you value, you are moving into authentic living.

The order in which I had organized my thoughts placed family well above school. This directed my decision to spend time with my family over the class for that particular day.

To arrive at authentic decisions, you will:

  • Consider what value each decision aligns with.

Your decisions should always find a connection point to a personal value. Examining your decisions will ensure you are not led astray by the influence of others which doesn’t reflect your authenticity.

  • Based upon the priority of your values, give weight accordingly to your decision.

Your options may have multiple connection points to values. You can easily decide what is best by aligning with the highest prioritized value and then moving down the list.

  • If your values aren’t represented by any of your options, consider if the behavior is right for you.

When you find your options don’t match any of your values, it’s important to consider if these options are a reflection of you. Behaving in a way that doesn’t reflect your authenticity may result in distress.

  • Make your decision with confidence knowing it aligns with who you are.

Making decisions from your authenticity creates and boosts your confidence in yourself and your ability.

Your decisions will be a reflection of who you truly are.

The necessity of authenticity will be felt each time you make a decision.


Our lives are not meant to be full of difficult decisions. When you reflect on your values, you find a path leading to authentic living.

Being an adult can lead to decision fatigue. When I discovered how to make decisions in a way that beautifully reflected my values, I began to experience less stress. My authenticity was revealed through my daily choices.

The steps which lead to understanding the necessity of authenticity are:

  • List what is important to you.

  • Find your true values.

  • Make authentic decisions.

Living an authentic life will be easy to navigate.

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