One popular description of those who can’t be trusted is, “They don’t walk their talk.” In other words, they say one thing and do another. My experience is that such untrustworthy behavior often is not conscious, but comes from handling situations one at a time, in the heat of the moment. Because situations and emotions can vary significantly, they do not produce consistency. Yet, one important contributor to trust is the consistency to “walk the talk”—to do what we say we will do and to live according to our beliefs.
Maxwell Anderson, in his stage production Joan of Lorraine, described such consistency this way:
“Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing. Nevertheless, they give up their life to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it and then it’s gone. But to surrender what you are—and live without belief—that’s more terrible than dying, more terrible than dying young.”
One of the great disconnects in today’s organizations is the number of individuals who are not in tune with what they believe, i.e., what is truly most important in their lives. Such people are often described as “not centered.” If you are not centered on what is most important in your life, you may find yourself giving your time and energy for the sake of “little or nothing.”
Inject a stimulus (a cancelled air flight, for example) into such a person’s life and what would you expect his/her behaviors to be? It might depend on the person’s values toward others. Or it might depend on how important the appointment is at the destination. It might depend on the person’s experience with that particular airline. Or it might depend on how tired the person is. Or whether or not they are ill. You see how many potential forces could govern the person’s response if his/her most important life values are unclear or hidden in the subconscious?
Years ago Earl Nightingale described what he called “The Strangest Secret in the World”—something that separates successful individuals from those who fail. It is the simple idea “we become what we think about.” Nightingale taught seminars on the dynamics of visualizing something important in the future and then working towards its fulfillment. Study the life of great leaders in ages past and you will find they were centered on their personal mission.
If we become what we think about, then the personal mission has the power to help us handle any situation in life consistent with our values. Consider the following as stimuli for drafting your personal mission:
- List some of the accomplishments and contributions you would like to experience in the future. Now circle the five most important items.
- List five “peak” experiences in your life. Then list five “valley” experiences. What were the common threads for the peaks and valleys?
- If you didn’t have to work for a living, how would you choose to spend your time?
- Think about the few people who have most influenced your life. What was it about them that made such an impact on you? Which of their attributes would you like to emulate?
- Suppose you only had a few minutes to give one last “lecture” to your family. What are the most important lessons from your life that you would like to leave with them?