In recent days our country has experienced yet another senseless police shooting event that has precipitated riots, vandalism and protests evoking sadness, frustration and a loud cry for change. We have been confronted once again by the reality that our country still discriminates against people because of their skin color. It seems that collectively our biases, like our habits for the most part, are not even conscious to us until a precipitous event causes our own behaviors and values to be called into question.
Because of the way we are raised as well as the pivotal and recurring experiences of our lives, every one of us carries prejudice and bias that can influence our actions, relationships, and other choices. We all have filters through which we experience the world. When we consciously lift up the potential for unconscious bias, a little more of what's below the surface of the iceberg of our 'thinking' is revealed. As Gandhi and many since have reminded us, 'our beliefs become our thoughts; our thoughts become our actions; our actions become our life; and our life becomes our legacy.'
In my organization I have a family of Gurus. These are individuals I’ve invited to surround me, support me, and whom I endeavor to support through various initiatives. I trust and am honored to have each of these Gurus walk beside me.
As I was reflecting on my unconscious bias in an effort to raise my own awareness following the death of George Floyd, my attention was drawn to these special people I call Gurus. I had carefully chosen these valued friends for their diverse professional successes, their unwavering compassion for others, their gender diversity, their age diversity as well as their ability to positively influence my organization’s community with their wisdom. Yet, I was suddenly confronted by the reality that not one Guru is a person of color; not one Guru has a significant handicap; not one was born outside of the US; not one is living in poverty although several had emerged from poverty and complex life circumstances. Had my unconscious bias prevented me from fostering a level of greater richness and diversity among those I call mentors?
When we begin to consider our habits and biases - both unconscious and conscious - we must first explore our values. Through this process we begin to see both gifts and gaps that we’d previously been unable to see; and our habits, previously below the surface, will be recognized as either barriers or enablers to us really living into these values.
Every day I aspire to experience Joy through “Faith, Optimism and Gratitude”. I didn’t just wake up one day, however, and have brilliant clarity about these values; they emerged as I began to awaken to my own potential over the journey of my life; and they continue to increasingly prompt me to consider my actions and how I spend the precious minutes of my life. As I reflected on my organization's Gurus recently, it became painfully obvious that I wasn't living my values as fully as possible; more diversity would certainly be a gift and would enable me to more fully be guided by the values I've chosen as the lens through which I make choices every day.
So what are your values? What is the vision or the future you see for your life? How do you want to be known? What brief statement do you want embedded on your tombstone when you die? What impact do you want to have? The answers to these tough questions are very different for each of us, but until we have some level of clarity for ourselves, it will be difficult to know which habits will add up to the aspirations we have for our lives. Accidental living will move you forward, and sometimes inadvertently you’ll become amazing, fulfilled and happy; but living on purpose by understanding who you are, what you stand for, where you are going and why, dramatically increases the likelihood that you’ll be successful in your quest to become the best version of you.
If your priority or value in life is raising your child or grandchild to become a happy, productive, independent, and contributing member of the human race, then reflect on what habits enable you to best fulfill that role?
If you want to be well, joyful and at peace, what habits might support that aspiration?
If you want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, what habits will enable you to fulfill that desire?
If you want to live in community with others who share your interests and life aspirations, what habits and practices might you need to consider.
If you want to put family first in your life, is the allocation of your time and energy aligned well with this intention?
As you can tell, these rhetorical questions are personal and answered uniquely by each one of us. However, if you can begin to name your values - what's at the core of your aspirations for your life, then you can begin to align your habits and your actions with your beliefs, values and aspirations. Very few of us are intentionally evil, prejudiced, mean and ugly people; but somehow, many of us neglect to do the hard work of considering our values. As a result often the habits and actions that enable or prevent us from reflecting these values are unclear and sometimes harmful to our life journey. It is time for change in our country and around the world; and it begins we each of us.
Make today the first day of the rest of your life; consider your values. Write them down, and then discern how those values are being realized in your life every day...or not. None of us will get there if we don't begin. And if it doesn't go well today; begin again tomorrow. The more we SEE, the more we'll BE. Enjoy the journey!