While it’s still summertime, and some of us still have time for summer breaks or vacations left, here’s another reminder/insight that my book research has not taught me, but certainly has reinforced for me.

In searching for programs and professionals who help women of all ages discover, develop, or reconnect with their more authentic selves and voices, one of the common elements I’ve found in programs that seem particularly effective is, as one program director put it, “pressing PAUSE.” As in, pressing the pause button on our task-oriented daily lives and activities, and removing ourselves from the noise into a place where we can immerse ourselves in enough silence, space, and reflective time to hear what the voice of our innermost self might be trying to tell us. And that goes for men as well as women. We ALL need it, if we’re going to stay centered, grounded, and if we aspire to have our external lives remain aligned with what our internal selves value most.

A therapist talked about the importance of finding both time and a place of refuge to reflect. Pam Erickson, the director of a semester-long residential program for high school sophomores talked about the importance of pulling girls out of their routines into a place far enough away that they could get some perspective on their “normal” lives, and devote concerted time to figuring out what they wanted, as opposed to what everyone else (including culture and the media) expected of them.

It sounds so simple, and yet, go ahead. Just try to remember the last time you pulled it off. I interviewed a retired dean of Smith College who, when she was at Smith, developed a three-day retreat for seniors, to give them time to deeply reflect on how or how much their ideas of success, and their own goals, were a product of other people’s narratives and expectations for them, and to ponder how they might redefine those things for themselves. And when I asked her if she thought those workshops might be valuable to adult women, as well, she said, “Absolutely. I think it’s essential. But I think they wouldn’t have time.” [click to continue…]

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A few days ago, I was in the grocery store. It was mid-day, so there were a lot of moms and kids around. And one of those kids, whom I estimated to be a bit shy of two years old, threw a loud, dramatic and protracted fit when his mom denied him a candy bar he wanted. His wails and screams could be heard throughout the store. And yet, as annoying as the child’s temper-tantrum was, I also recognized that he was, in a sense, just being 2. He was also, arguably, being “authentic.” No fronts, no editing, no impulse control, no “shoulds” involved. Throwing temper tantrums is what 2-year olds do, when they don’t get what they want. It’s highly annoying, but it’s also (big sigh from all parents of toddlers) age-appropriate behavior. At that stage.

I tell this story because one of the big surprises I’ve discovered in researching a book on the power and importance of an authentic voice is that there is a lot of confusion about what, exactly, “being authentic” means.

In a recent opinion piece in The New York Times Week in Review section, for example, a professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania argued, in a piece called “‘Be Yourself’ is Terrible Advice” that “nobody wants to see your true self.”

The professor, Adam Grant, went on to cite the story of a writer who’d done an experiment, a decade or so ago, by trying to be “totally authentic” for several weeks. Important to note, here, is that being “authentic, in that writer’s mind, evidently consisted of behaving very much like the character Jim Carrey played in the film Liar Liar. (In that film, Carrey is put under a spell where he has to be completely, brutally-and audibly–honest for 24 hours, saying everything he thinks out loud, no matter how inappropriate or hurtful or damaging those thoughts or words are.) You can imagine the results of the writer’s experiment. [click to continue…]

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Dispatches from the Book Research Road

by Lane Wallace

Every now and then, I hear from readers who are wondering what I’m doing, now that I’ve retired my “Flying Lessons” aviation column. The answer is, I’m currently researching a book I hope to have completed by the end of the year.
The book is about the power and importance of an authentic voice: why it [...]

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Switching Jobs to Avoid Alzheimer’s

by Lane Wallace

I‘m thrilled that more and more study is being devoted to evaluating the impact of elements such as passion, purpose, meaning and having and expressing an authentic voice in our lives … even if the results often seem like a statement of the obvious. It seems almost self-evident, for example, that people who feel more [...]

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The Risks of Entrepreneurship: Silver Linings 2

by Lane Wallace

A few posts ago, I discussed a new study that concluded that people who attempt an entrepreneurial venture end up better off financially, regardless of whether the venture succeeds or fails. (The theory being you learn from the experience and return to a salaried job smarter and savvier, even if your self-employment doesn’t pan out.)
Well, [...]

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Passion, Resiliency, and Cam Newton’s Super Bowl Performance

by Lane Wallace

Say what you will about the NFL, or professional football, I love the Super Bowl. Every year, the game manages to produce some applicable nugget or insight of leadership, passion, or life. After all, if nothing else, the Super Bowl is unquestionably leadership and passion played out on a high-stress, high-stakes stage, in front of [...]

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An Explorer’s View on the Death of Henry Worsley

by Lane Wallace

I set out, last week, to write a post on the death of Henry Worsley–a 55-year old retired British Army officer who was attempting to be the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided. An ill and exhausted Worsley gave up the quest a mere 30 miles from his goal, after a journey of [...]

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Why Trying an Entrepreneurial Venture May Not Be As Risky As You Think

by Lane Wallace

“Why Doesn’t Everybody…”?
For years, I have joked about this iconic question, usually posed by innocent people who do not have any first-hand experience with the (fill-in-the-blank) topic they’re asking about. Lane’s rule of thumb: If everybody doesn’t do something … whether it’s start their own business, renovate their own house, or own a polished-aluminum airplane [...]

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Are Mid-Life Crises Inevitable?

by Lane Wallace

I began my new year (the 7th one writing this blog!) with the unexpected treat of dinner with two friends I’ve known since I was 12 years old. In truth, they are the only friends I’ve known since I was 12. But I know I’m lucky to still have something in common and keep in [...]

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Intrinsic Gifts in an Imperfect World

by Lane Wallace

The holiday season, as delightful as all the lights and decorations are, can actually be a tough time to feel happy, because we’re bombarded on all sides with images of “perfect” lives and holidays–and we humans, it turns out, depend quite heavily on comparing our lives with others when we decide how happy we are. [...]

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