Authentic Success

(reprinted from Authentic Success Newsletter)

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde

True success is achieving what you want in a way that aligns with your Core Values. Authenticity is the choice to be true to the best parts of your character, personality and spirit. Contrary to what some people advocate, authenticity is not being transparent about every flaw and weakness you have.

Core Values

Core Values are character strengths that represent your “best self” identity. These positive qualities are natural for you. Many organizations create Core Values as ideals for their employees to practice. Your Core Values are ideal traits you already possess and commit to paying more attention to in service to living your best life. 

Think of these traits as positive ways of being such as curious, courageous or loyal. When you express them, the quality of what you are doing and saying is elevated. Core Values are less about valued ideas or achievements such as family, love or success and more about HOW you are conducting yourself.

A person with the Core Value of curiosity will handle rejection or failure differently than someone whose Core Value is courage. Neither one is better than the other. One is just truer for each person. Since a Core Value is your natural way, you create more advantages for yourself in the situation by utilizing it. You won’t have to put a lot of effort into it. It is who you already are at a deep level.


The trouble is that most people listen to the Core Values others tell them to live by. As you run around trying to mold yourself according to someone else’s values, you sacrifice the strengths that are already within you. Simultaneously, when you ignore your Core Values, consciously or not, to get the outcomes you want, you may end up with temporary spoils but lose your mental and emotional wellbeing in the long run. You will suffer from imposter syndrome. You feel like a fake. 

Years ago, when I first started my advertising sales career, I tried to model the “go-getter” trait of other successful sales executives I saw in the industry. I did generate sales but was uncomfortable with myself. I felt tired and worn out. I didn’t like who I was when I kicked off my shoes at night. 

Soon enough, I decided to take a more authentic approach, mostly for my wellbeing, regardless of the results. I chose a relationship based style that resonated more with who I know I am at my personal best. I won’t exaggerate and say that I made more sales as a result. I made about the same amount. However, I was happier, more productive, and eventually worked my way up to the publisher of the magazine

When you focus on being true to the best parts of you, you feel more calm, confident and genuine in every situation. Being your authentic best is the most accessible action you can take towards your success.

That is not to say that your Core Values don’t have a dark side. Expressing an ideal quality to the extreme can be as destructive to your authentic success as suppressing it entirely.

For instance, the quality of honesty can be liberating and helpful to others. It can also be demoralizing when offered brutally. While suppressed creativity can manifest in another dull, dry and monotonous business presentation, exaggerated creativity can eclipse a significant business message. Announcing superior third-quarter results by doing cartwheels in a clown suit tossing candy at the team is “out of the box” creative… but it is not very appropriate. 

So how can you be authentic in a way that affords you success?

You need the practical wisdom that comes from doing. As you experiment with expressing your Core Values in different ways and varying intensities, you find the Golden Mean or the “just right” sweet spot. 

Remember the story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears? She is wandering in the forest and stumbles upon a house. Hungry, she goes in and finds three bowls of porridge. One is too hot, one is too cold and one is just right. Goldilocks couldn’t have gotten to “just right” without trial and error. She had to be willing to burn her mouth and taste cold porridge (which must have been unpleasant) to find her version of perfect.

There is no hard and fast rule for when you are compromising your Core Values either by suppressing them or exaggerating them on the road to success. You figure it out by living them. The threshold for ‘just right” is different for everyone.

Eventually, when you practice being your Core Values in just the right quantity, scope and appropriateness, authenticity becomes part of your character. You begin to experience a life well-lived. As you always endeavor to align your actions with your Core Values, you push your success limits while remaining true to the best parts of you. You create the contentment that can only come from achieving something challenging rather than easy.

In these chaotic times when success can feel fleeting, you have a great opportunity to practice your authenticity. What more could you disrupt that has not already been disrupted? With so much changing, nothing is for sure anyway. Everyone is trying to work smarter to navigate coronavirus and shifting culture. How about living more authentically? What kind of success and contentment could you generate from that space?

Striving for authenticity is akin to striving for improvement. You do it not because you are deficient, but because growth is your nature. Just like a flower can push up through a crack in the sidewalk, you can push to break free from any inauthentic habits you have created.

Seek to express your Core Values every day with practical wisdom. Live like this and you will create more authentic success. When you come home at night, you will kick up your feet with sweet exhaustion knowing you lived and succeeded at your unique and personal best.

Action tips:

1. Get to know your Core Values. You can take a brief, free assessment of your character strengths here: Afterward, you will receive a character strengths assessment via email. Your top five strengths represent your strongest Core Values. Explore what they mean to you. Investigate different words or phrases for the same Core Value. The goal is to connect deeply and uniquely with your “best self” qualities.

2. Look at where you express these Core Values in your life in what you consider the perfect amount. Celebrate!

3. Look at other areas of your life where you compromise your Core Values by holding back or expressing them to the extreme. Consider options for living them in a more authentic way that represents your unique personal best.

Thanks for reading. Until next week,

 Jo-Aynne von Born, Certified Professional Coach

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