Matters Column

Be yourself in all you say and do to earn success

October 27, 2012
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How might the world be different if transparency truly replaced the guarded face we typically present when interacting with others?

If we were to transform the tolerance we often painfully exhibit when others are “not like us” into unconditional acceptance, would the world become a better place? If we could be more comfortable with who we are and readily exhibit our strengths, acknowledge our shortcomings and intentionally act to bring about positive change, might we more readily embrace the similarities and accept differences of those around us?

Accepting “who we are” does not imply we do not need to change. An individual is not a static point within a sedentary world. Rather, life “happens” and we must anticipate, respond and reply to the challenges it presents.

Being “who you are” today does not mean you should be the same tomorrow, nor does it assume you are the same today as you were yesterday. We must accept our skills, abilities, values, ethics, standards and persona as they are today so we can build upon them as we move toward a better tomorrow, using the present as a springboard to that which is to come rather than as a destination from what has passed. 

While we may seek to be like those we respect, we should never reject who we are by attempting to become someone we are not. Trying to transform ourselves into someone else or into another existing only within our imagination can be a frustrating investment providing diminishing returns. 

While we should express happiness for another’s accomplishments, we should not seek to establish our own sense of worth through their success. We all learn from watching others but should avoid claiming their successes as our own or seeking to avoid all personal failure by watching their struggles.

Much growth can come from overcoming a personal defeat or shortcoming. Learning from such an event can become transformational. 

To become all that we can be, we must first accept all that we are so we can move beyond the boundaries created by our present reality into the unlimited realm of future possibility. We cannot fulfill our potential when we are so busy immersing ourselves in the accomplishments of others that we have no time to enjoy our own successes.

Celebrate the progress you have made with the gifts you have been given rather than dwelling upon the things you do not have or have yet to accomplish. Rather than worrying about the things you cannot yet do or the ideas you have yet to express, embrace the things you have accomplished and the value of the thoughts you routinely bring to fruition. 

To truly make a difference we must recognize “what is” while moving toward “what could be” after considering “what has been” and examining  what has worked (and what has failed) in the past. We must force ourselves to take two steps forward for every one we slip back, knowing it is not what we have or what we have done that makes a difference, but rather what we have yet to do and have not yet accomplished. While all things are possible, some things take a bit longer to accomplish than others. 

Successful individuals tend to achieve great things with and through others, gaining satisfaction from watching the accomplishments of others rather than seeking recognition and acknowledgement for their own thoughts or actions. Few respected individuals make decisions based solely upon what is best for themselves or their own future.

When we spend too much time tracking who is doing what to assign proper credit for everything that is done, we end up taking more time orchestrating results than initiating or performing actions necessary to make things happen in a manner that benefits the whole. 

What you do is a greater indicator of who you are than anything you may be able to express in words. If you do not “do what you say and say what you do,” you will probably never completely fulfill your potential. If you try to live within the image of another or hide within their shadows, a misspoken word or unintended action will eventually reveal your true self as different from what you project yourself to be. 

It is best to be yourself in all you say and do because until (and unless) we allow others to view us as we are — to see the value we bring rather than allowing our contributions to be limited by what we might think they expect — we will not realize our true significance. 

We should accept that all things are possible while recognizing some are not yet feasible. Refuse to be content with your position in life, however, continuously seeking those things not yet realized while moving toward new avenues not yet explored. When we begin to identify and fulfill our own potential we find that “being ourselves” is not such a bad thing, which is probably good because anyone else we might wish to become has already been taken!

David Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids.

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