Live every day as though it will be recorded for posterity.
Or, if that doesn’t motivate you—to be your own best self, live as though your every action will be reported on and criticized on Sixty Minutes.
Do you think of your work self as being different from your real self? Do you sometimes make choices at work that cause you a twinge of conscience? When you get home and put on your jeans or sweats does it feel like you’ve left that other person behind and now you can finally be yourself?
When it comes to actions, choices and words, today is all we have.
But everything we choose to do or say in the present moment either reflects or contradicts our core values. The British have an old bit of slang that refers to someone acting too proud. They say, “who is he when he is at home then?” I love that reminder that we are all people, wonderfully complex magical people, yes, but still people, and we are all connected. What each of us does and says affects others sometimes far beyond what we see.
News stories sometimes shock us by reporting on people leading double lives. A man has two different families in different locations. Another led his family and friends to believe he worked as an accountant when he actually worked for the CIA. An unemployed stockbroker told his family he was going to work each day and then begged on the street. These true examples make good Hollywood storylines although most of us don’t go to that extreme.
But do we also lead a double life? Are we known as a tough s.o.b. at work but as a teddy bear with the grandkids? Are we the quiet “good soldier” at work but the domineering parent at home? Are we quick with the compliments for others in the office but critical of everything our partner does at home?
Peace and harmony in our lives can only be enjoyed when we are consistent at being our true selves, but how do we achieve that?
It may help to ask yourself: “How will I be remembered?” Many people keep a “bucket list” of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket” as a reminder that life is short and time seems to pass faster and faster as we get older. Another useful exercise is to write your own obituary.
Will people write that you lived your life in harmony with your core values?
Will they describe you as a person of integrity who was caring, compassionate and reliable?
Did you make time for family and friends and did they know they could count on you to be there for them in good times and bad?
Did your coworkers see you as a leader and a role model? Or will they say after the eulogies and with a few drinks under their belts that you were a cutthroat in business, ego-driven and willing to step on others to get higher on the ladder?
Will they tell stories of your goodness or share a laugh at the things you “got away with?”
Be honest with yourself. While it may be a rule of society to never speak ill of someone, self-knowledge is the first step to self-growth. This is not the time for rationalizing away our shortcomings and excusing our poor choices. This is an opportunity to learn and grow into our own best selves, and isn’t that what life asks of us?
Read the other articles in this series:
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger