Sign up for our newsletter

That felt right. We’ll be in touch soon about our new secret handshake.

Sorry, something went wrong!

Let’s keep this relationship going.

Please also send me occasional emails about Zendesk products and services. (You can unsubscribe at any time.)
Please select an option


Get off autopilot and live a more honest life

Recently I saw Linda Vista at Steppenwolf Theatre. It’s a play that perfectly captures the human conundrum. The show—which I loved so much that I’m seeing it at least one more time—centered on a midlife man coming to terms with who he is now and how he has lived his life. On the one-month anniversary of his post-divorce relationship, he decides he and his girlfriend have to break up. The dinner scene is tense; tears shed, silverware flying. The man begins the breakup with sadness and ends it with anger. It’s at her but not at her. Like so many things in his life, the breakup is complicated. At one point the man turns to his now ex-girlfriend and says, “the problem is, it’s so much easier to be insincere than sincere.” Exactly. And what a mess that makes.

Honesty is always the best policy. But being honest with ourselves and those around us can be a tough pill to swallow.

The man in this play spent a lot of time wandering. From relationship to relationship, person to person, running from who he was, or trying on a different persona for size. I can relate, as my own method is to wander towards too many things hoping that one of them will reveal who I am or what I should really be doing. I could write a whole essay about the time I almost moved to New York to be an actor, believing that by hiding in the lives of others, I would find myself. Thankfully for me, (and the New York theater scene), that didn’t pan out.

I could write a whole essay about the time I almost moved to New York to be an actor, believing that by hiding in the lives of others, I would find myself.

Ever had that twisting, nagging feeling in your stomach that doesn’t seem to go away with food/exercise/wine/distractions? That’s your subconscious demanding some honesty, yet we find it hard to be candid about our emotions, When we are not honest with ourselves we rarely demand honesty of others. That makes for a life that isn’t real and isn’t faithful to who you are at the core.

You can run, but you can’t hide (forever) from your true self

National Geographic photographer and climber Cory Richards spent the majority of his life running to the highest places in the world—literally, he climbed Everest—to avoid dealing with his own inner demons.

Now Richards travels giving talks at places like SXSW and through National Geographic Live! Referring to his darker days, Richards says, “When I looked long and hard at my life, I saw a whole bunch of big failures that ended up in little successes. Other people didn’t see that because I wasn’t living honestly. Behind the appearance of a thriving career, I was falling apart. People saw my exploits on social media, Snapchat, Instagram—but they never saw me drunk in a hotel room alone after giving a talk.”

Being honest with ourselves and requiring it from others gets pretty murky thanks to social media. In the old days, you could talk a good game, but that was it. Now you can carefully construct the images of yourself projected to the world. It makes self-deception easy. And eventually, it catches up with you.

Wandering to find the answers makes you more lost

“Your identity gets hitched to whatever you are not accepting. And the more you push something away or run from something, the more your sense of self is linked with that experience,” says Tara Brach, founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW).

When I was in high school and college I traveled a lot. I had family overseas but I also made it a point to be gone for every holiday and long weekend. The trips were part pleasure and part restlessness. Well, 75 percent restlessness, to be honest.

I roamed, hoping that I would stumble across a revelation. That the answer to my future would appear across a crowded New York City street

My friends always commented on my photos, my stories, my enviable status as the traveler with wanderlust. I soaked it in; who doesn’t want to be the cultured one? But I knew that my travels had nothing to do with wanting to experience another culture. Or eat pasta in Rome. I was running away from the impending doom of adulthood, laden with responsibilities and the consequences of not taking my college days seriously.

My sense of self evolved into a wandering and unemployable misfit. It was only when my bank account prohibited these exploits that I had to take on some self-reckoning.

My sense of self evolved into a wandering and unemployable misfit. It was only when my bank account prohibited these exploits that I had to take on some self-reckoning.

We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Having a heart-to-heart moment with yourself is easier said than done. (See? I just did it!) But mostly it’s uncomfortable. So uncomfortable. Americans, more than most cultures, have a real problem with processing difficult emotions from people who deviate from the social norm.

“There's this relentless drive to mask the expression of our true underlying feelings. It's almost inappropriate,” says psychologist David Caruso. When someone asks “how are you?” we never tell them the truth. The answer is on autopilot; simple and false.

You’ve heard it before: Failure is part of being human. What is not, perhaps, as widely discussed is the upside of failure—that our moments of imperfection can actually make us stronger. Listen as Sport and Performance Psychologist Mark Aoyagi shares some useful tips on how to transform crash-and-burn experiences into stepping stones to success.

If we can’t even honestly answer a simple question, then how can we expect to live a more honest life?

It’s not easy, but it happens by taking one step at a time. Start by observing your behavior and your intentions. Be purposeful. Once I recognized that I came back from each trip more despondent than when I left, it was clear that I had to address a few things. By taking ourselves and our actions off autopilot, we open up to honesty. Then ask yourself a few key questions; the next time you do something, stop to think why you’re doing it. What drives you? What do you hope to get out of it? Is this a pattern?

I learned that despite my adventures and great pictures, the answers to my problems wouldn't reveal themselves Instead, I had to take a deep breath and begin to demand honesty from myself. Only then could I start to pursue a life not defined by running away.