how to be a visionary




“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” — Gospel of St. Thomas

I read an article about the top 10 regrets of the dying. Four regrets stood out for me in particular:

I should have pursued my dreams and aspirations.
I should have said “I love you” more.
I should have spoken my mind.
I should have had the courage to live truthfully.

All these regrets could be bundled into the failure to live an authentic life.

An authentic life, by its very nature, is a creative life, and rebellious. You push back against the life that others would hand you. You learn to say ‘no’ a lot. And in that space of independence you form the intentions, and make the choices, that carve out an existence that resonates with who you are at core.

This also enables you to resonate with others: to connect, to create intimacy, to inspire.

The word ‘authentic’ has gotten a bad rap: overused to the point where it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. Some argue that it should be retired altogether. I still use it because it means something very specific to me, which I will now attempt to explain to you, Dear Reader:

An authentic life is when your inner life finds full, compelling expression in your outer life.

When the way you present yourself to the world feels like an accurate depiction of who you are at core.

When you can give voice to your inner life in a way that connects with the inner lives of others — so that they see aspects of themselves in you. You express what they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, or didn’t know that they needed to, or that they even had in them in the first place. This allows them to know themselves better.

I think of that as resonance.

Resonance is an art. And art – short for ‘artifice’ — involves more than honest self-expression: it requires the skills, tools, practice and mastery to bring what’s inside of you, outside, in a way that has meaning and relevance for other people.

Get really good at this, and you just might deliver a vision that changes the shape of reality itself.

People who do this are called visionaries. Eckhart Tolle describes them as people

“that function from the deeper core of their being – those who do not attempt to appear more than they are, but as simply themselves, stand out as remarkable, and are the only ones who truly make a difference in the world…Their mere presence, simple, natural and unassuming, has a transformational effect on whomever they come into contact with.”

I like that: people who function from the deeper core of their being.

Sounds so easy, so simple.

And yet.

One of my favorite recent blog posts is Danielle LaPorte’s The Myth About Following Your Intuition. In it she takes umbrage at self-help gurus who make it sound that once you tune into your inner knowing – your core – your deeper being – the rest of your life will slide magically into place.

Danielle writes:

“Following your intuition ain’t always an act of grace — it can be a total grind. You will have to burn things. You might sweat, toil and dig dig dig to do what you know must be done. Following your intuition might call on you to do the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life.”

Following your intuition – functioning from the deeper part of your being – takes courage. And it’s worth noting that the word courage, according to Brene Brown, derives from the Latin word ‘heart’ (cour) and originally meant:

To tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

Which strikes me as a great definition of the authentic – the ‘wholehearted’ — life.

Jan 24, 2013

15 comments · Add Yours

Justine, this article definitely resonates with me. I think living authentically is vital for off the charts creativity as well as for peace , joy and true happiness in ones life. Love the way you broke it down. Thanks so much.


I only recently decided to start living a whole hearted life. It can be a struggle at times, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way.


My first encounter, the kind where you really hear something for the first time, with the word ‘wholehearted’ was reading about David Whyte’s conversation with Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast. Here’s the excerpt:

But I had my day on my mind, and the mind-numbing tiredness I was experiencing at work. I said suddenly, out of nowhere, almost beseechingly, “Brother David, speak to me of exhaustion. Tell me about exhaustion.”

And then he said a life-changing thing. “You know,” he said, “the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.”

“What is it then?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness. You’re so exhausted because you can’t be wholehearted at what you’re doing…because your real conversation with life is through poetry.”

And while I agree with what Danielle says, I think it is also true, and more exhausting, to live out of alignment with your dreams, aspirations, love, courage and truth. When we can’t be wholehearted at what we’re doing.

Thank you for reminding me of this!


I used to say I wish I believed in what I was fed, because it was easier than questioning. I could just do what i was told and be okay.

Sometimes the best days are also the hardest days, being exhausted but also fulfilled.


Awesome post – as usual. :)


Hi Justine, I have always wanted to write a book but have never given it any sustained effort. I wrote part of a book, scenes for a book, ideas for a book, but mostly did and do other things with my time — things that earn money, things that my family need from me. Now I am 50 years old and the desire to write a book still haunts me, so I am giving it halting, fearful, self-doubting, and every now and then when the perfect word, sentence, image, idea just pops into my mind absolutely exhilarating fits and starts of my time. I have written 3 chapters so far of my book. I don’t know–can I write a whole book with a beginning, middle, end? something in me needs to know and so I struggle with it. Is it good? not yet, and that makes it even harder to struggle on, as I read and watch great stories all the time. Does anyone I know or any family member need this from me–no. So, thank you for telling me through your essays that I should struggle on because I both want to give up and don’t want to give up at the same time. Your essays encourage me with my personal journey and I just wanted you to know that I’m out here benefiting from your work. Karen.


Shit. Now I’m going to have to write a post I’ve been putting off for a while because I’ve been too scared.

Thanks, Justine. A lot x


Aaaah – if we all had the luxury of financial security to have the time to delve so deeply into our souls and not feel guilt about what we should or could be doing — count yourself fortunate


You might notice that the people who amass real wealth in our society happen to be ‘visionaries’ — like, uh, my ex. So there might be something to this soul-delving business after all, and you might want to toss out the TV or find other ways of carving out time to think of how you can start aligning your voice, your values, your life. You only get one.


Your post is timely, as always. I want to show people that it is possible for everyday, ordinary people to function from the core of their beings, to live authentically, wholeheartedly, truthfully. Each of us possesses courage sufficient to rise above ordinary and live without regrets. Getting started is the hardest part and also the easiest part.


@edenland I really want to read that post. xo


I’ve had similar thoughts about the ways we avoid the authentic life. I wrote about it in my blog post called the Art of Faking Happiness.


I love this. Dream big. You rock.


This article means a lot to me. It’s strange, because I got to it by googling that saying of Jesus that you quoted. It’s something I sometimes remind myself of when I’m going to do anything ‘performance’ related.. Like giving a talk or a poetry reading (which I did last week for the first time!) . Anyhow, I took the last 4 years of my life to answer the question of ‘who I am’ after a particularly painful breakup that left me with little sense of my own life. Most of the time I didn’t even know what that question meant or what in was really asking but over time I started to get answers… And yeah learn to say no a lot haha. Just wanted to say that reading this was very meaningful because I could see in it so much of what I’ve experienced. I’m at the point of putting what I came up with into practice and it’s a bit intimidating some times, but ultimately feels right! As a person who lives much in his head it’s nice to balance out and be in the heart. Thanks for this!


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