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Answering 'The Hard Questions'

Do you ever think you are not living the life you are meant to live? That's what author Susan Piver calls your "authentic life."

In her latest book, "The Hard Questions for an Authentic Life," Piver created 100 questions for readers about seven essential areas of life: Family, Friendships, Intimate Relationships, Work, Money, Creativity, and Spiritual Life.

In addition to the questions, Piver outlines the four important skills -- Courage, The Willingness to Feel, Focus, and Presence - that help to access and understand one's unique inner wisdom.

She tells The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen, there are certain warning signals to determine if you are not living your "authentic life."

Piver says, "Aside from that sort of gut feeling that sometimes we all have that things aren't as they're supposed to be, I think one important red flag to look for is lack of confidence. When you're in your life, the life you're meant to live, sure there's problems, there's difficulties. But they don't necessarily have the power to throw you, the way they do when you're really not quite in the life that you're meant to be living.

"Another red flag is a sense that your life isn't important. And I think that a lot of people feel that way: that their life doesn't deserve this kind of examination, that they may not merit the sort of wonderful life that they may dream about. Your life is important and you have unique gifts to give and abilities that only you have. It's very important that you identify them and offer them not just for your sake, but for the sake of everyone," she explains.

And she recommends journaling your answers. Piver says, "I think it's helpful to make it kind of formal, when you pay attention in that way and say, I'm going to devote this time to thinking about my life. I'm going to write down the answers.' Doesn't mean you can't change them, but makes it more solid, a little more real."

Read an excerpt from "The Hard Questions for an Authentic Life":

Introduction

The search for authenticity is among our deepest and most natural inclinations. Anyone can live an authentic life. Living authentically doesn't require you to secure your dream job, get in perfect shape, or find true love. Certainly those are wonderful, but there is no guarantee that reaching any of these goals will provide the sense of confidence, joy, and ease that comes with authenticity. Haven't you known people who seem to "have it all," yet are not content? Hasn't each of us had the experience of finally securing something — the job, the boyfriend, the home, the perfect weight — that we've always longed for, thinking that this, at last, will mark the beginning of "real" life? I know I have. I also know that every time I find something I've been searching for…nothing happens. Invariably, after the first rush of happiness, I find myself wanting something more, again, imagining that my "real" life is just around the next corner.

While living an authentic life might include meaningful work, great relationships, health and beauty, and a great house, none of these has the power to unmask your true self, or settle you in the center of the life you are meant to live.

What does it mean to live authentically? Living authentically is what you're doing when you find congruence between your inner world: your feelings, values, gifts, needs, spirituality, and passions, and your outer world: your job, relationships, home, and community. When you live your authentic life, these things support and synergize each other. It doesn't mean that you have no worries, conflicts, or fears; you may even have more as you choose to live authentically. There is one key difference, though: they no longer have the power to unseat you. When you have discovered what you can offer to others, when you feel that you are on your unique path, when you have an ongoing, honest, reliable connection to your inner wisdom, then you have found your unique spot in this world with all its craziness, sorrow, and joy. This discovery gives tremendous ease. You finally have a way of relating to work, lovers, friends, and spiritual practices with open-heartedness and intelligence. Problems, no matter how intense, are workable.

When I was a small child, I used to lie in bed and wonder where my real life was and when it would begin. I would sniff the suburban air, tune into the sound of the occasional car in the distance, look at the lovely, manicured lawns out the window and try to locate anything at all, that felt, sounded, or smelled right to me. Nothing did. For whatever reason, my early life, peaceful and secure as it was, didn't feel comfortable. I had the distinct sense that I didn't fit in — at home, at play, at school. I wasn't academically talented or good at making friends. The things I was interested in didn't appeal to anyone else. What I was good at — writing, reading, wondering about why people acted the way they did — didn't elicit much response. I felt isolated.

I always felt that my "real" life lay elsewhere. Even then, I knew (or hoped) that somewhere there were people who explored the worlds around and within them, engaged in passionate relationships, lived purposeful lives, and even connected with God. I believed that these were the qualities that made life worth living and that my life, once I located it, would connect me to them. I would find the joy of true love. I would discover my unique gifts. I would engage in work that allowed me to offer those gifts with courage and dignity. I would know God, the Goddess, Jesus, and the Buddha. I would come to a deep understanding of what it meant to be human, and specifically, what it meant to be Susan Piver. This understanding would naturally lead me to my true place in this life.

Reprinted with permission by Gotham Books, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright (c) Susan Piver, 2004

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