Intentional self-development: Who do you dream of being?

Last updated on July 1st, 2019 at 01:54 pm

It has become fashionable over the past couple of generations to point a finger of blame at people who have made your life difficult.

News flash: Life is difficult! These are the first three words in M. Scott Peck’s perennial best-selling book, “The Road Less Traveled.” 

The sooner you can understand these words, the sooner you can release a lot of angst when things don’t go your way. And the sooner you can get to work building the person you want to be.

Poet E.E. Cummings (whose contrarian style included writing exclusively in lowercase) said another profound thing: “To be nobody-but-yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

Rounding out a trio of quotes, I have one taped to my refrigerator, though I have no idea who originally said it: “Don’t let someone else’s mistakes make you someone you never intended to be.”

When I see and read about so much anger, resentment and demand for restitution, I wonder, how have we been led to this moment? How and why have we decided to let other people’s mistakes make us people we never set out to be?

Science tells us that the natural state of things is atrophy and decay and it certainly seems as though science is being proven out. But the natural state is not what most of us want. We want better, stronger, more productive, more equitable, more inclusive, more respectful.

My challenge to you as an individual, team member, citizen and rational human being is to set aside the noise of destruction to focus on intentionally developing the You that you dream of being. If you want to live in a world of greater inclusivity and respect, listen. Learn. Value difference. Don’t wait for someone to extend these courtesies to you first. Lead.

If you want a world that is better and stronger, learn to forgo the gratification of having what you want right now to build something of value for others who will come after you.

If you want to live in a world of greater equity, dedicate yourself to teaching someone what you know. Equip them to compete in a world that, frankly, doesn’t care where they came from or who they know, but cares a lot about what they can do, and for whom.

If you want to be seen as someone of worth, do something worthwhile. 

Every individual is different. We all have stories about how we got to be the way we are. No one’s life story is all sunshine and roses; the people who insist theirs has been are lying. And they know it, which is why so many people are uncomfortable in their own skin and cannot speak plainly; because they are always looking for approval.

Business is tough. Life is difficult. Competition is fierce. Good thing you’ve been made to withstand all of it.

Figure out what your unique strengths are. Pay attention to the ideas that spark energy within you. Promise yourself that you will be better tomorrow than you are today, whether “better” means smarter, kinder, quicker to act, more straightforward in your conversations, financially stronger, or any other criteria that matters to you.

Some socially accepted ways of “being better” will hurt you. Things like demeaning people who think, act and live differently than you; lying to gain the upper hand; destroying the reputation of a competitor; seeing yourself as more important than others for any reason under the sun. You are not. They aren’t, either.

Stop listening to people who talk too much, lie too easily, and want something from you that you are not willing to give. 

Help the people who want to tell you what you think to understand that you are capable of forming your own opinions, making your own decisions, and responding accordingly to their questions or needs. To do so, you’ll need patience, a sense of perspective, and an abiding belief that they, too, deserve the respect and accommodation you want. These are traits worth working on!

Once mastered, they will lead you proudly to the person you dream of being.

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Susan Marshall
Susan Marshall is an author, speaker, and Founder of Backbone Institute, LLC, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future one person or team at a time. Her work over nearly 30 years with leaders in public and private sector industry, non-profit agencies, and public education is dedicated to building strong leaders who in turn create successful organizations, transform school systems, and develop leaders at all levels.