Last week I was travelling across Europe and found myself with a two hour stop-over in Zurich Airport. As I usually do, I found myself in the English language section of the Airport bookshop and I picked up a book that looked like it might have some resonance for me in the context of what I have been involved in with LIFT over the last 2 years. The book was called The Road to Character by David Brooks.
I can’t profess to have read too deeply into it yet, but I did take a peek at the Introduction (which is quite unlike me as usually I skip this and go straight for the main sections). The very first paragraph however made me stop and think. In it, the author talks about the difference between what he calls the resumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. Resumé virtues are the things we claim about ourselves when we are going for a job or applying for a promotion. They are easy to imagine: I thrive in complex and challenging environments; I am passionate about bottom line results and customer satisfaction – that kind of thing. Eulogy virtues on the other hand are different – they are the things that we would like others to be able to say about us after we pass on.
As Brooks says, most people probably naturally feel that the eulogy virtues are the ones that really matter – these go deep to the heart of who we really are and what we have stood for. But, for some reason, many of us seem to spend a lot more of our energy on trying to build up a resumé of those more shallow and less meaningful achievements.
I think most of us at some stage have wondered to ourselves what would be written or said about us after we pass on. In our imagination, we see a packed room, full of sad and weeping mourners, as hush descends and the eulogy solemnly begins. I have to admit that if my ability to focus on customer satisfaction is one of the headlines, then I think perhaps my time here could have been better spent.
What most of us really want is to be known for things like integrity, courage, honour and kindness.
We want to be remembered as people of character.
Yet few of us spend much time or effort on trying to build our character. It is almost as though we feel that character is too embedded to be able to improve. I don’t think however that this is true. There are too many examples throughout history of people who have changed their lives around completely, for me to believe that we don’t have the power to become better versions of ourselves. Who we have been in the past doesn’t need to be who we will be today or tomorrow.
Sometimes, all that is needed is for us to take the time to reflect carefully on what it is that we would like to be remembered for.
Then, just be that person.
You are never too young or old to make a change in your life. What will you do with the precious time that’s been given to you?
If you need inspiration, check out our Facilitator Stories. Discover how a mother of five, Colette, has rediscovered her sense of self worth and inspired those around her through Living LIFT. Follow the below link for the full story.