When I look across my home city of York from one of the highest buildings in the city I see buildings of different styles and ages. I see buildings that span the period from the truly ancient, 1000 years or more old, to the modern day. Each building is unique in style, but in some way reflects the character of the city. Each serves a different purpose: a to meet, a place to learn, a place to eat, a place to be entertained, a place to reflect, meditate, pray, a place to shop. Each building exists within in it’s own context, but is still intimately part of the city. York overall, has it’s own authentic character.
We, as humans, are like a city. We each have a certain way of being in certain contexts, to serve specific purposes. Perhaps we are one way of being with our children as a parent and another way of being with our parents as a child. We may be one way of being with our peers at work, another way of being with our superiors, and yet another with our teams that work for us. Or maybe we are one way of being when we are teaching, another way when we are learning, and yet another way when we are driving. Always, though, our way of being is context dependent.
Exercise: Consider how your way of being changes according to the different contexts you find yourself in in your life. Perhaps when you are operating in different roles, with different individuals or groups of people, or when undertaking different activities.
If we have different ways of being according to the different situations we find ourselves in, what then does it mean to be authentic?
Whilst context specific, how we act is influenced by a hierarchy of higher order considerations. These higher order considerations are known as Neurological Levels.
• The level of skill or capability we have in relation to the activity we are undertaking.
• The values and beliefs that we operate under.
• Our identity – who we think we are.
• What we understand our purpose, or mission, to be.
Authenticity is the consistency of character that comes from alignment across each of our neurological levels.
• Our behaviours and actions, are in line with both our skills and capabilities, and our values and beliefs.
• Our values and beliefs are not in conflict with one another, or with our definition of who we are (our identity).
• Our identity, values and beliefs are aligned with our sense of purpose.
This alignment, this consistency, is felt both by the individual in the form of a sense of calmness and being in control. It is also felt by those they interact with in the form of trust and rapport. Conversely, incongruities are also felt. They manifest in the form of stress in the individual, and as variable levels of distrust and lack of rapport in those they interact with.
Exercise: Consider actions you take or behaviours you exhibit which you find stressful. What is it that causes this stress: is it a lack of skill or capability? Are you acting in conflict with your values or beliefs? What does this make you believe about yourself? What does this make others believe about you?