What do I need to ask myself?

by Sam on March 16, 2010

One-Minute Answer:  A Nationwide Insurance TV commercial warns, “Life comes at you fast!” And it does—often so fast that we have little time to reflect on our role in it.

 

This is “Reflection Week” at Ask Sam Deep. We’re suspending learning in favor of introspection, delaying instruction in favor of contemplation, and postponing scholarship in favor of self-examination. Composing this week’s five-minute answer gave me pause. It was impossible to show you these questions and not ask them of myself. I’m still wrestling with the answers.

 

Once we’ve traveled the highway of life for awhile, it is good to look back so as to appreciate more fully where we’re parked and to plan more optimistically the road ahead. Join with me in that journey.

 

 

Five-Minute Answer:  The “micro queries” below ask about specific personal situations. They explore everyday conduct. The “macro probes” focus on larger issues of life. They encourage a broader study of our existence.

 

There is so much to consider on each of the questions. It may be best to focus on one, or at most two, on your first trip through the list, coming back to others in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

 

MICRO QUERIES

 

1.   Do people follow me for the right reasons?  When others comply with your requests, they do so for one or more of five reasons. They obey because they: (1) consider you a legitimate leader with every right to direct them, (2) fear the consequences of non-compliance, (3) anticipate a reward of praise or money, (4) see you as an expert who knows best, or (5) admire and respect you as a leader. Research shows that followers who respond to (5), (4) and the praise part of (3) outperform those who respond out of the money part of (3) or out of (2) and (1). See Servant Leadership in the archives for ways to build (5) and (4).

2.   To whom might I owe an apology?  “I was wrong,” I’m sorry,” and “Will you forgive me?” are wonderful words that help to heal relationships. And don’t fear an error of commission. Apologizing when you don’t need to is practically as good as doing it when needed.

3.   Whom do I need to forgive?  Someone once said that holding a grudge is like taking poison hoping the other person dies. The reason to forgive is pretty simple. It frees you from the bitterness that gets in the way of your joy.

4.   Do I show appreciation to those who need it?  Write the names of three people in your family, circle of friends, or workplace who strive to help others or to help you. Say, “Thank you.” For good measure, add to the list the next person you see in uniform.

5.   Can others count on me?  Can they really? Are you accountable for what you do, or is your instinct to make excuses or place blame elsewhere when you fail to deliver? You may want to ask this of a key person (boss?) in your life: “If I do one thing to be more accountable for my performance what would you recommend?”

6.    In what ways do I shoot myself in the foot?  As Pogo (by cartoonist Walt Kelly) said in 1970, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I cause 90% of my troubles; I hope you’re doing better. People who get honest feedback from an accountability partner who has come along side them have much healthier feet.

 

MACRO PROBES

 

1.   What is my reason for being here?  Why has The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren sold over 30,000,000 copies since published in 2002? Because at least that many people wrestle with this question. Personally, I believe we are all here to serve. Find a pursuit where your talents and energy most often translate into good. When that work also brings you inner joy and peace, it’s a safe bet you’ve found your purpose or are getting very close to it. What you do may change over time, but continue to follow the combination of good for others and joy for yourself and you’ll not go wrong.

2.   Who do I believe?  No, this isn’t a typo. It’s a far more important life question than “What do I believe?” People quickly divide over beliefs, but they’ll often hang in there for a while to hear about the source of those beliefs. This question is a great way to clarify your values to yourself and to share them with others with gentleness and respect.

3.   Do I live a godly life?  If you profess to be a person of faith is there enough evidence to convict you of it? If your answer is “no” or “sometimes” it may be more useful to strengthen your faith rather than work to generate more evidence for it. “Fake it ‘til you make it” will not work here. Instead, rely on the love that your growing faith will deposit inside of you to compel loving action more often.

4.   Am I for myself?  A young man in a discussion group confessed that he struggled with ambition. His dilemma recalled for me the words of Hillel the Elder: “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I?” As the group discussion continued, it became clear that he cared deeply about others, but felt guilty about his business success. He’ll be fine, as will those who surround him. That’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who climb to the top on the backs of others—while wearing golf spikes.

5.   Who do people say that I am?  You exist as three persons: (1) the you that you see,   (2) the you that others see, and (3) the you that is. Reserving the third you for God to judge, consider which of the first two determines your success as a leader, friend, coworker, spouse, and parent. It’s the second you, is it not? That is the one that accounts for the effect you are having on others and thereby determines your impact in your life roles. The most helpful among us are those that have the clearest picture of how they are seen by others so that they gain the option of personal change.

6.   Who do I want to be when I grow up?  Take out two sheets of paper. On the first sheet write the opening paragraph that you want people to hear in the eulogy given at your funeral. On the second sheet write the paragraph that would likely be heard if you died today. What are you doing to bring the two paragraphs into congruence?

 

Enough Said:  “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  ~Socrates

 

Next Week:  You find them at work and at home. They disappoint, anger, and frustrate you. Much of what you do seems to have little effect on their behavior. So next Wednesday we’ll learn, “What are the best ways to deal with difficult people?”

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