Norman Vincent Peale once wrote, “change your thoughts and you change your world.”
As human beings, we all have something in common. Each of our days is composed of micro-decisions; small, second-to-second decisions on how we react to our outer reality. When you add up these decisions and take their average, you get your reputation.
There is no way around it.
No matter how hard we try, in our current human state, we have no control over the grander life circumstances we find ourselves in. We can control small parts, we can manipulate small details to give us the illusion of control, but as Outkast sang so brilliantly…
“…you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather.”
Therefore, our lives and reputations start and come down to a sum of our second-to-second reactions to these outer circumstances. The beauty of free will, if you believe in free will, is that we can choose how we react to these outer circumstances, and we do, every single second of our day.
Many times, simply put, we make some negative choices.
You make the choice to send that snippy e-mail. You make the choice not to call your family member back. You make the choice to sit, looking disengaged in that boring 8 a.m. meeting. You make the choice to cut that person off at the intersection (like they owe you something). You make the choice to fake a cell phone call or send a text message instead of looking up at people when you are walking by. You make the decision not to say hi to your neighbor, and hurry into your house.
We also make some positive choices. You make the choice to pick up that piece of trash. You make the choice to call a friend and listen. You make the choice to be nice to someone. You make the choice to forgive. You make the choice to repent.
The problem as I see it, is that all too often we only like to take responsibility for the positive choices we make and their consequences; but we like to ignore the millions of negative decisions we make every day.
You may have heard the concept, “you’re only as good as your last, worst decision.” That’s a tough pill to swallow. For living that way would mean that we have to be attentive to our every breathing moment on this earth. Truly being present and aware in this one life we have to lead… imagine that.
Many of us in the leadership development field love to throw out big quotes and terms like “change”, but when we look at our lives, we don’t even come close to authentically living the ideals we teach.
I use this quote often, but it truly gives weight to our situation and to the power of the micr0-decisions we make each second:
“A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts. And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are far-reaching.”
Each one of our decisions and choices we make in reaction to our outer reality has EITHER a positive or negative consequence, and that consequence is far-reaching. The chain reaction of a decision you made will be floating around this earth long after you are gone.
We have to take responsibility for both our positive choices and our negative choices. And better yet, we have to take responsibility for their far-reaching consequences. This all starts with our inner thoughts.
One way to become aware of the decisions we make is to take notes on every small decision you make in one day when reacting to life.
Are the majority of those choices positive or negative?
That is your reputation.