You’ve thought through 21st century tools and 21st century skills, but how are you set for 21st century virtue? What do you mean “virtue” is a Victorian notion? Don’t you need a stance, a perspective, a context in which to make sense of these quickly-changing times? Think of virtue not as an unblemished character trait, but as a vantage point which gives you the ability to take action and make a difference. There may be a number of such virtues, but there is one that that comes before all others. Authenticity: the ability to impact your world as your genuine self.
The next great frontier turns out not to be the oceans or outer space, but human potential. Think about it. When you look at all the skills and tools touted as the hallmark of this century, what is the common denominator? Real-time, authentic, in-the-moment, interaction. No confinement by physical space and time. No limits to creativity, collaboration, productivity and building new understandings. Our minds are the ultimate frontier.
The irony of the 21st century is that, because of its immediacy, people have become that much more cynical, and it limits our thinking. We just accept that media are not objective. We don’t expect advertising to make sense. We create avatars that serve as caricatures of ourselves. Operating in a virtual world can be all at once very self-affirming and very artificial. Lines are blurred, anything goes and reality checks become optional.
Authenticity cuts through all of the superficiality and makes you well-grounded in reality.
People who operate with authenticity:
- Know their values – they are clear on what is important to them
- Are self-aware – they are conscious of who they are and what they are doing
- Have internal focus – they have a strong sense of how they can make a difference
- Are results oriented – they keep their eyes on the outcomes they want to achieve
- Have affective intelligence – they combine thinking and intuition in their knowing
- Seek deeper understanding – they are driven to go beyond initial answers
- Generate real connections – they seek out and attract people and ideas of substance
- Communicate with clarity – they speak and listen clearly, openly and receptively
- Resist distractions – they operate in the moment regardless of multiple demands for their attention
- See infinite possibilities – they view the world as more than one pie with only so many slices
Hey, if it were easy, everyone would already be doing it. What’s the incentive to develop your own authenticity? In a world of noisy, disruptive, quickly-changing reality, those who are well-grounded in themselves emerge as the thought leaders and achievers of this new age…the standard-bearers for where we are headed…as educators…as people…as members of a global society.
You know people who personify authenticity; you have already met some of them along the way. They immediately get your attention with their ideas and energy. Authenticity cuts through all that is unnecessary and gets to the point. And at the end of the day, we all respond to anyone and anything that gets to the point. No posturing. No style without substance. No smoke and mirrors. Just true, bona fide, indisputable, unadulterated gravitas.
People who are not in touch with their authentic selves resort to defensive posturing: making excuses for themselves, blaming others and seeing people conspire against them. These behaviors consume their energy giving them a false sense of purpose. You have met people like this too, making a lot of noise wanting your attention…but they don’t resonate with reality. It’s important to see them for who they are…and that’s hard to do until you are in touch with who you are.
When you operate with authenticity, you take charge of tools and skills and circumstances and generate new ideas, new possibilities, and new solutions. Doors open and opportunities make themselves available to you simply because you are no longer limiting yourself in your thinking. You don’t point to situations or people and blame them for your circumstances; you work to create the circumstances in which you want to live.
Yes, authenticity requires effort up front, to know your genuine self and get in the habit of being true to who you are. But the longterm pay-off is incredible…because you don’t have to be a big-name mover-and-shaker to make a difference in this world…you just have to be your genuine self…and all your potential to impact the future will emerge. It’s a journey…not a destination…and it happens by degrees.
So why not begin today…here and now…reinventing authenticity…first by peeling off the thinking and habits that hold you back…and then replacing your old ways with genuine 21st century virtue?