There is a lot of talk about authenticity in many fields and areas of life. But what is often missed is that achieving authenticity is not at all difficult in most undertakings. For example, it’s very challenging to reach undisturbed happiness, and yet happy people are most often not at their peak happiness state all of the time. When I think of someone I consider authentically happy, I can envision them being disenchanted, upset or left unfulfilled – and yet that doesn’t detract from seeing this individual as authentically happy.

For many people this nebulous idea of being authentic is complicated further by self-help literature and marketing literature which elevates something to a higher level as being more authentic than something that is in a state of mediocrity. Does an authentically mediocre musician any less authentic than a virtuoso? Clearly one is much more skilled at their craft than another, but skill and authenticity aren’t related.

So if skill is not at all related to being authentic, why all the hype about becoming an authentic communicator or the pinnacle of human self-development: an authentic person?

At its core, being authentic represents a state of awareness. Someone who is authentically happy is aware of their happiness. An authentic communicator is aware when his efforts fall short. An authentic individual is cognizant of their relationship to others, the space around them, and their behaviors. But there’s more to being authentic than just conscious awareness. To be considered truly authentic, it’s imperative to envision oneself as being authentic instead of doing authentic.

Authenticity is a quality attributed to those who with the help of their awareness transcend individual behaviors and arrive at a different plateau – where they are no longer aware and doing, but instead are aware and being. The doing becomes a natural consequence of being: musicians compose, actors perform, mathematicians solve, engineers build.

Some people attempt to become authentic by doing. This results in rapid initial progress, and after some mastery is developed they are stuck and seemingly no matter how hard they try no further progress is made. From this point, there are only two paths forward: complete abandonment of the goal, or a decision to become someone who could achieve this goal. This would require both awareness, of course, but also a necessary separation of the doing and being.

Only after crossing this critical tipping point can true authenticity begin to develop. Only once there is both awareness and complete resignation from attempts to tie level of craftsmanship to being a master can authentic craftsmanship emerge in an individual. This is the point where a pupil begins their journey to authentic mastery and achievement of their discipline. If you’re chasing after becoming authentic at something – be it a professional accreditation, or a personality trait, or genuine realness in your interactions with others, what will get you there is being and not doing.

This is the core reason why self-directed attempts at goal achievement beyond general domestic to-do’s fail miserably. Because deconstructing your end goal into a series of smaller sub-goals works beautifully when building a house or organizing a closet, and inexplicably fails when pursuing authentic relationships and personal fulfillment.

The duality of authentic happiness not bringing eternal happiness, of an authentic communicator of not always getting their message across, of an authentic marketer including only the good bits – none of them detracting from being an authentic lover, authentic writer or an authentic marketer.

Authentic people simply care. They are aware of what is going on, and they care about it.

And once you get those two to work in tandem, there will be no doubt left in other people’s mind what your purpose is because it will simply become what you care about.

And that is something no level of skill can bring, or subtract. And if you consider anyone who has achieved something of value, you will notice that there are always these two things present in everything they were doing: awareness and care. And without both of those your destiny is, at best, to become a very skilled technician who in-authentically checks off the boxes on the to-do list.