Consider this bit of wisdom: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!
Now let’s put it to use: If the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, what’s the main thing?
If the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, what are the main principles that will guide your actions?
Answer that riddle, and you will know how to act, in good winds and bad, when the choice is easy and, more important, when the choice is hard.
When you know who you are and who you commit to be, your choice of actions flows more easily and spontaneously, without a need for prolonged deliberation or strategizing or weighing the pros and cons.
Knowing who you are and who you commit to be is a discipline. It will equip you with a set of rules that allow you to engage in any game that your personal and professional lives offer up.
Knowing who you are and who you commit to be is a discipline that is tremendously liberating. The discipline imposed by the rules can free you of the chronic need to weigh, wonder, consider or calculate how to act or how to play, a need that accompanies an absence of rules.
Whatever actions you live by and play by, they become your signature. Now, we all routinely offer our handwritten signature in ways small to large, routine to rare, from signing a credit card slip for coffee to signing a tax return. Yet, much more often, we offer our signature through our actions, ranging from regularly pausing to offer a genuine hello and thank you to the coffeehouse barista to responding honestly in situations where we fear that the truth might be to our disadvantage or detriment. Small or large, pedestrian to profound, your actions are your signature.
When I take the time to look closely enough around me, I see plenty of individuals who effortlessly demonstrate character — I say effortlessly, because they know who they are to such a degree that they act on principle as a matter of course.
I see them when someone:
- returns too much change given at the register.
- picks up trash left on the beach by someone else.
- takes in a stray dog, tracks down the owner and returns her safely home.
- buys at a locally owned store, even if prices might be slightly higher than at the chain store.
I also see individuals who act from their core when it could be so much more effortless for them to do otherwise.
I see them in the man, woman or young person who take it upon themselves to:
- stand up against bullying — including the bullying of gay and lesbian teenagers.
- stand up against the disrespect and sexual abuse of women.
- advocate on behalf of dignity, equality or fairness.
Now, back to you and to the questions: What set of principles are you prepared to embrace privately, and share publicly? What is the signature by which you will be known? These are your main things. And, after all, the main thing is to keep these main things the main thing!
Excerpted from The Citizen Leader