We’ve been talking about the 12 Laws – or Truths explored in my book, The Art of Significance. Today, let’s touch on the Seventh Law: Doing Right Instead of Seeking to Be Best.
Are you struggling to be the best?
I’d urge you to stop seeking that title. Don’t strive to be the best. Strive to be right.
What does it mean, doing right?
It means following your better angels, not necessarily your instincts. It means choosing to do what you believe is right, even if it flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
Your life isn’t a competition against an opponent. A life of significance is a battle between you and your potential. It’s about becoming the very best version of yourself, regardless of the yardstick.
You’ll find that, once you’ve become the best at your craft, career, pursuit, something surprising will happen. You’ll discover that the greatest measure of your existence isn’t an external force; it’s your internal drive.
It’s what I’ve learned as a keynote speaker. I rely on my inner drive.
Doing right means honoring yourself
I’d like to help you discern the difference between right and best by offering different perspectives or angles on making the right decisions and living in an upstanding, “right” way.
I’ll begin by observing that when we forget about “right” and grasp onto an image of “best,” we pay the price.
The saga of America’s Olympic basketball team is a great example. After the United States won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics with nonprofessionals, the Olympic Committee changed the eligibility rule, allowing professionals to compete.
Starting with the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, America consistently fielded a “Dream Team” made up almost exclusively of NBA all-stars – classy athletes like Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Karl Malone, and John Stockton.
However, in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, things went horribly wrong. Again made up of a league of NBA all-stars, this so-called Dream Team managed to lose three games – more losses in a single year than the country’s Olympic basketball teams had suffered in all previous Olympic games combined.
They were arrogant, disrespectful, and came to the Olympics thinking they were “the best”…and their egos dragged them down. Not only did they lose three games, but they also lost the respect of the Olympic community.
They weren’t doing right by their duty.
Compare this with Coach Brooks, who led his American hockey team to Olympic gold. He said, “I don’t want the ‘best’ players; I need the twenty-two ‘right’ players if we are to beat the Russians and win Olympic gold!”
He did get the right players, and the rest is history.
He understood that having a collection of egos wouldn’t fuel his team. He needed athletes who saw the whole board…who were willing to be the best players as part of a team, not solo heroes.
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Four suggested actions for doing right
There are four steps you can take to pursue what’s right, not what’s best.
1. Watch your thoughts
I know it can seem like a cliché, but you are what you think. So be aware of your thoughts and how those thoughts manifest in your behavior.
Follow the guidance of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu…
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
2. Block out the noise
When you face a significant life decision, remember this: If the decision is right, you will know it in your mind and feel it in your heart.
To obtain clarity, you need to block out all the noise of everyday life. Get away to a private location.
Take a few deep, cleansing breaths, close your eyes, meditate for a moment, study the situation in your mind, and verbally ask out loud for help in making the right decision.
3. Take time to reflect
Take time out each day to review your conduct.
Ask yourself, did it hurt anyone – including myself? Was it fair? Did it violate the Golden Rule? Was I told that it was wrong? Did I feel bad when I did it?
If your conduct didn’t measure up, acknowledge it and behave differently in the future when similar situations arise. You don’t have to beat yourself up about your misconduct. Simply resolve to do better next time.
4. Write your own code
Like the challenge I issued in Law 1 to write your own personal credo, this new challenge asks you to write your own Honor Code of Conduct.
At both the United States Air Force Academy and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the incoming cadets swear to live by an honor code stating a minimum standard of ethical conduct. This code simply, but powerfully, reads:
We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.
Cadets are considered the code’s “guardians and stewards” and at graduation commit to living it for the rest of their lives, stating:
Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.
Pen your own code. And revisit it every day.
Becoming the best from within is a process
Once we become our best selves, something surprising happens: We find that life’s ultimate accomplishments derive not from competing against others – as the concept of “best” implies – but from measuring up to the highest possible standards of performance.
Our own conscience defines them and the universal laws naturally inscribed in them.
True satisfaction, meaning, and joy come from doing the noble and honorable thing – and not just when it’s convenient, but all the time.
Would you like to explore the concept of doing right and find your best self? Contact me for leadership training or life coach services.
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