new year’s resolutions

The “Be List”

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With the dawn of the new year, there is no shortage of resolutions out there. People are pledging to get healthy, to get more organized, to get a new job, to get out of debt. I call this list of resolutions the “Get List.”

I wonder what would happen if the thinking behind traditional new year’s resolutions was to change? What if, instead of thinking about the things we need to get, we thought about the things we’d like to be? In other words, instead of focusing on the traditional “Get List” of resolutions that often result in outward physical or monetary results, what if we made resolutions that focused more on character and the way we interact with the world? I call this list the “Be List” of resolutions.

This shift from the “Get List” of resolutions to the “Be List” of resolutions is not for the faint of heart. After all, part of discovering what you want to BE requires that you identify what you already are, or maybe what you already aren’t or aren’t enough of on a regular basis. It involves an introspective look at yourself; maybe even some work to uncover the things you’ve worked a long time to hide. It requires you to be honest with yourself about your own prejudices, fears, and shortcomings. And it requires you to be brave in your efforts to improve and to apply those improvements to interactions every day.

So why bother? Well, from my perspective the answer is a simple one. The problem with the “Get List” of resolutions is that once the thing, or action, or behavior is achieved, it gets scratched off our list of things to do. Come next January, many of us are making a similar resolution to go out and once again get the thing we were after the year before. Sound familiar?

The “Be List,” however, pushes us to think more carefully about what motivates us. It challenges us to think about how we could interact or respond to the world in ways that improve not only our own lives, but the lives of others. A “Be List” has the power to reshape ideas, attitudes and behaviors that manifest themselves in many part of our lives. It becomes a definition of our character.

Cavett Robert, recognized as the founder of modern day speechwriters once said, “Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” Probably a good reflection for the countless folks on treadmills in January and February who are back on their couches by April.

Worst case scenario, the “Be List” results in a bunch of people who have made conscious choices and honest efforts to be more of what they’d like to see in the world. Perhaps we find ourselves surrounded by people who are working to BE kind, to BE generous, to BE focused, to BE brave, to BE healthy. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?  In addition, my guess is that in their efforts to become the people they’d like to be, they also get much of what they want.

Might be worth some consideration.

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Wearing What’s Important

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lettersHave you ever gone somewhere, looked around the room, and thought, “Yeah, I should have worn something else?” Recently, I found myself in a hospital elevator and it happened to me. I looked around and found myself as the only one not wearing a white coat of some kind. It made me chuckle. But as I made my observation, something else more poignant occurred to me. I was the only one NOT wearing my credentials on my sleeve (literally). My first reaction was that if something were to happen to me at that very moment, the chances of survival were pretty good. But then as the elevator crawled to the next floor, I began to wonder what exactly all those stitched letters meant: DO, DPM, CNA, ACNP, MD, RD, and a combination of other acronyms. Some were combined in such a string of proclaimed accomplishments that I wondered if even the person wearing them knew what they meant. Don’t misunderstand me. I know that these people worked hard for their designations. I’m sure their moms are proud. But doesn’t that string of letters sometimes feel a little arrogant to anyone else? I mean, I don’t know what they all mean and I’m sure most others don’t either. But they certainly imply a level of importance. And we sometimes trust ourselves more with those who wear them, right?  The connotation is that the more letters one wears after his or her name, the more important he or she is. It is an alphabet soup hierarchy.

I thought about all those letters for a couple of days. Then I came up with this idea. What if, instead of wearing letters to demonstrate our completed schooling or skill levels, we had to wear acronyms to demonstrate the kind of people we are. Now if you are immediately reminded of Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, let me clarify my intentions. I don’t mean that we should be branded with our sins and misgivings. But what I am suggesting is that instead of judging a person’s worth by the earned degrees on their sleeve (and the implied salary level), it might be better practice to celebrate the personal qualities of people. After all, just because someone went to school and studied hard for a test doesn’t mean that he is an exemplary person. In fact, I might argue that as people add more and more letters after their name, it might become easier and easier for them to forget who – at heart – they really are.

Let me offer some example of what I mean:

  • PWWO – Plays Well With Others
  • KtA – Kind to Animals
  • DE- Demonstrates Empathy
  • KP – Keeps Promises
  • GH – has a Generous Heart

The list of positive acronyms is endless really. In this new year, I will be thinking about the acronyms I might want to wear. I encourage you to make up your own and to live by them. And while you might not embroider them on your clothes, I bet people will soon realize that you wear your heart on your sleeve. And that, to me, is impressive.