Section 3: LIVING WITH GOODNESS
VALUE THE PERSON YOU ARE
Focusing on Your Gifts and Your Strengths
This lesson parallels the previous lesson, Just Be Yourself, which reminded us not let the world change us in detrimental ways. This lesson takes that point a step further and focuses on five factors that, to a great extent, define who we are and how we live our lives.
Accept yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your truths,
and know what tools you have to fulfill your purpose.
We Are So Much More than Our Physical Self
We all have some physical characteristic we don’t like. From time to time, we have thoughts about ourselves or expressed something like this to others:
“I wish I were prettier and more attractive.”
“I never liked being short and have always wanted to be taller.”
“I wish I were faster and stronger so I could play sports.”
“I’ve never liked the way I’m shaped.”
“I wish I were as handsome as David is.”
Such feelings develop when we let ourselves be defined by our looks or outward appearance. It’s easy to obsess about our looks because they’re what we see in the mirror every morning and what our friends and family comment on from time to time. I’m not saying the way we look doesn’t have some importance; those who dress sloppily tend to impress people much less than those who are appropriately dressed. I am, however, saying that our looks have little to do with who we are and what we accomplish with our lives.
The factors that really determine who we are, and ultimately our success in life, can’t be seen. They can only be experienced. And, while we can make slight changes to our outward appearance,
we can make significant changes to our “who-I-am” factors based on the choices we make. We don’t have much control over some aspects of our external looks, but we have a significant amount of control over the type of person we are and how we conduct ourselves with others each day.
What’s Really Important?
Here are five factors that are important in defining who we are and the quality of life we will have:
How we treat others
When we show respect and kindness to others, we create circumstances that cause other people to feel special. When we take the time to help someone with a problem or issue, we not only make them feel that someone cares about them, but we feel better about ourselves as well. When we say or send a special “Thank you!” to someone who helped us in some special way, we make them feel appreciated and valued. When we are respectful to neighbors, to other people at the gym, to staff members in the store, we create special moments in their lives. So how you treat others is not only important when you are young but will continue to be so throughout your entire life.
What we learn and the knowledge we develop
We start life knowing very little, but the more we open ourselves up to learning along the way, the more informed and interesting we become. Knowledge increases our chances of accomplishing something special. What you know is a huge part of who you are. Learning can come in many forms: sitting in on a free seminar online or at your library; taking a tour of a local business; asking someone about their life experiences; making a mini-documentary on the history of a topic you are interested in; or shadowing a person in a career you’d like to learn about. There are lots of ways to learn, and you, in effect, show that you care about your knowledge and understanding when you take advantage of them.
The way we let our heart guide our lives
Love can guide you in very special ways: to people you care greatly about, to concerns for those who are less fortunate than you, and even to the intended purpose of your life. Following the path of love can help you become who you really are. Looking through the lens of love will help you think about how your actions will affect your own life-long hopes as well as the lives of others.
How hard we work
challenges, obstacles, and difficulties as we endeavor to make our life work. How you face these and how hard you are willing to work to overcome them says almost everything about who you really are. You gain respect and accomplish more when you refuse to give up, especially when something is very challenging. The choices you make during a tough period in your life are often the most important as you work to make progress and ultimately achieve success.
No one has everything “work out perfect” in life. All of us face
What we actually accomplish
Excuses, even if valid, don’t count very much. What you actually accomplish with your life, in spite of difficulties, is what’s important. Wait, I’m not talking about achieving fame and fortune. I’m talking about two things. One, the extent to which you use your life to help other people. And two, the extent to which you utilize your interests, abilities, and feelings to define the life you live. Erich Fromm, the German philosopher and author of Man for Himself, defined the objective this way:
Man’s main task is to give birth to himself,
to become what he potentially is.
Through the choices we make, we have the opportunity to define who we are today and who we become tomorrow. To do this in an exceptional way, we must place a low value on how we look and place a high value on the type of person we are. We must find fulfillment primarily through these five things:
…becoming more knowledgeable,
…letting love guide us,
…working hard, and
…finding and following our intended purpose in life.
Be mindful that people are pushing you in a variety of directions; they want you to conform and be like them. It’s up to you and me to keep our lives on our own track and ultimately become the person we were meant to be.
If a man has a talent and does not use it,
he has failed.
If he has a talent and uses only half of it,
he has partly failed.
If he has a talent and somehow learns
to use the whole of it,
he has gloriously succeeded and will have a satisfaction
that few men will ever know.
Which of the five factors in this lesson do you consider to be the most important to you?
What do you need to do to emphasize it in your life?
What are you doing to take advantage of the learning opportunities you have?
What do you consider your primary gifts and strengths to be?
Do you see one or more of these playing a major role in what you are doing with your life?