Leading By Example

There’s a lot of weight to this statement, and it’s a concept I believe in deeply.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but it would be wise to remember that – for all of us – those opinions are our own. Our views are colored by our own filters and experiences, and therefore highly personal perceptions, which leaves room for both accord and disagreement. It also means there is no right or wrong because our journey in life is entirely unique – what we “see” can never been seen by another in precisely the same way. 

We are also entitled to share our opinions – free speech, after all!  But (and this is very much my personal “opinion”) it is not by vehemently expressing our views, or opposing others outright, by which we can change the world. At the end of the day, our opinion isn’t what matters at all…it’s how we conduct ourselves.

Our behaviors, actions, reactions, responses, attitudes…they culminate as our “example.” We can change the world when we lead in this way, because our behaviors can – and do – affect those around us. Good, bad, and ugly! The difference in the impact an opinion will have is that a statement of what we believe is simply that… While words are powerful things, they can go in ears, and out them as quickly as they were uttered.

The other side of it is that many will nod as if to say they hear you, but move on without putting an ounce of effort in listening to anything you’ve said. Our behaviors, however, are more defined – they become concrete actions, which are (in a way) the proof in the pudding. We can say many things and behave in a way that is wholly contrary. OR, we can say many things and back that up by taking actions in alignment with those words.

A fine example can be found in observing children. We can say “you should never do X,” then do X ourselves, and watch the children following suit by taking action X. The actions are so much more meaningful than the words we use. While again I personally believe that words can be powerful things, it is important to note when a dissonance between the spoken word and the taken actions occurs, it will be the actions that are followed and believed.

For many reasons, beyond the ones I have mentioned, the quotation really hits home. We live in a world where opinions are forcibly thrust in our faces on a regular basis – it’s much harder today to escape someone’s political diatribe (even when tailoring your social media feed!), for example, than in the past. You see it almost whether you like it or not. 

As for me, though, I’m not really interested IN those opinions. I’m more concerned with attitudes, behaviors, and actions. I care more about how a person is conducting him or herself, and you better believe that it is based on those things that I will formulate my estimation of them. (I’d fully expect others to do the same and hold me to this standard.) 

The actions of others speak volumes (versus the pretty things one might say.) I know for myself that a person’s conduct (his or her “example”) will change my environment a great deal more than by what they have to say. Because again, it is the actions that are telling us all what they REALLY believe. Which of those two would you follow?

Perspective – When My Attitude Flares Up, How I Tone It Down, and Why I Should

MOST of the time I *try* to be a decent human being.  I try to reflect on my behaviors – good, bad, and ugly – and to conduct myself in an upstanding way as much as I can.

I ALSO fall short plenty!

As human beings, we are subject to more influences than I think we ever want to admit (hell, even the moon has me all off kilter when it’s full!) We are subject to changes in mood, for so many reasons that it would be nigh impossible to list them all.  But that’s okay.  We are allowed to ebb and flow, because that is just the nature of life.  We don’t have to be perfect all the time, and even if we have some grandiose notion that we’d like to be. . .it doesn’t always play out that way.

But the other day a thought came to mind that stopped me right in the middle of my “if-the-car-in-front-of-me-doesn’t-speed-up-I’m-going-to-go-nuts!” rant.  It was such a jarring thought that my attitude shifted. Instantaneously.  

I have the wonderful fortune of volunteering with children with disabilities with two organizations – I’ve never found something that lit my heart quite as much (and that’s saying a LOT, as I am a truly passionate person about my life, my activities, and the careers I have had.) I love the kids, and I love meeting their parents – learning about them, their individualities, and what makes them happy, is an overwhelming joy.

So as I was having this moment of “can’t stand anyone” (and I think it was in reaction to a woman tailgating on the highway and giving me the middle finger, despite that I had no idea what I did to warrant it) I thought to myself. . .

What if the person in that car who I’m getting all flustered because of, or at, was one of the parents of the kids I get to work with?  Would I act the same way?

Resounding NO.

I wasn’t *trying* to give myself a guilt trip, or make myself feel badly.  When my behavior deviates – and I think it’s fair to say, as adults, we generally know when we are being unreasonable and inappropriate with our reactions (should we choose to be honest with ourselves!) – I am aware of it.  I do try to correct myself and in effort to curb poor actions, I have said to myself everything from “you never know who has a weapon!” “you can’t take back what you say,” to “that really doesn’t make me a good person to flip someone off”…!

Doesn’t always seem to calm me down, though!  

But. . .the thought that it *could be* someone in a situation such as the families whose children I work with shut me down pronto.

I would never want to behave that way with one of them.  And when I think about it, I can’t imagine I really want to act that way with ANYone.  What does reacting poorly say about me anyway? Nothing grand, I assure you!

When I think about it, it makes me feel sad that I would allow temporary emotions to overcome me in such a way that I lash out – in any regard.  As a human being, I know it is bound to happen, and that expecting myself to be Miss. Goody Twoshoes is NOT realistic.  But because I don’t know what other people are facing, and because I also know how blessed I am, I appreciated the supernal reminder. . .which stopped me from getting angry, or for the woman who flipped me off to ruin more than the few seconds of my day during which she did so.

I know I’m going to fall short sometimes, but that moment was one I know I will remember. . .

I have the blessing to work with those who have a journey fraught with challenges, and I LOVE the work because I have the opportunity to make lives better. To behave poorly as a result of flared emotions is to contribute in a negative way, and I will suffer personally when I choose that route.  The only thing that would make it worse is to also hurt someone else who didn’t deserve it to begin with…and I’d say I don’t really want to decide that someone deserves any of that.