We all want to work hard and reap the rewards. But life, as we all know, is short. What messages can we hear when we are so busy working? Are we able to listen when we’re talking and moving so quickly?
In her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware shares the poignant lessons that she has gleaned as a nurse caring for people in their final days. It may come as a surprise to some that she suggests the number one regret is, “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
As a certified coach, this seems to be a major struggle for the people I see as well—although it’s not always one they can verbalize that easily. The questions, “who am I” and “what do I want” seem to be a distant thought to “what is expected of me” and “what must I do.” After all, it is these latter questions that drive our working lives, even if it is the former questions that define ourselves.
We are all compelled to act out of the suggestions of others, whether noble or not, who have been markers of influence. It is patterns and behaviors that now reside in our subconscious often leading us to “become those people” and not the people we truly want to be. Our “do’s” often precede our “be’s” when it might be the other way around. Or could it?
Is there a truer life for yourself than you have made time to honor? Do you inwardly desire a chance to courageously say “yes” to something that you are not doing now? What holds you back? What are practical ways you can put honoring of self into your life? Have you ever given yourself a chance to step back and ask, what if I …??
In the Butler University MBA program, we offer a unique and different kind of leadership initiative than is common in many collegiate business programs. We challenge our students the chance to step back and ask those poignant questions, to take a breath, with permission, to think about who they are becoming in and through their leadership. As a coach, my students—many of whom are already well into their careers—remark that the leadership development plan is a surprise; a gift, not something they would have expected nor done on their own. They are invited to ask, “what steps can they take to help them be the person they desire to be?” and “what do they want to do and do well?”
Not only does this surprise and delight my students, the same feelings often occur with other clients and individuals who are asked not “what do you do” but “who do you want to be?” Moving forward with our lives requires deeper reflection than simply the daily actions of work. True leadership requires true contemplation.
Leadership can be a lonely place both personally and professionally: it demands that you become courageous in facing difficult and challenging things about yourself first. What if you honored yourself today and made the decision to say, “I will choose to begin to tap into my courage to live the truest life that I want, not what others expect me to be?”
Not only will you be on the path to become a more authentic person and leader, but you will also have the opportunity to share with someone in your final hours the joyful note that you chose to live into who you wanted to become!
To be or not to become, that is the courageous question! Do it!