“Fire! Everyone out of the building!”
Confusion spread through the supermarket like a wildfire, even before the smoke alarms went off.
I was only in my early twenties and had never before been in a building that was on fire, so this experience certainly made for quite an interesting day as a deli clerk!
With heart pounding, I headed towards the nearest exit and on the way out I watched with fascination one of my coworkers who wasn’t acting like everyone else. Instead of hurriedly making his way to the exit, he instead calmly went to all of the restrooms ensuring that everyone was able to get out safely.
Witnessing this, I thought to myself: "That's the kind of person I want to be. In times of adversity, I want to be the one helping others.”
It’s said that reputation is who people think you are, while character is who you really are. Regardless of how well you may curate your reputation, if it’s not backed up by a positive authentic character, then when the going gets tough and you find yourself in over your head in hot water, whatever shallow veneer you’ve created for yourself will quickly dissolve revealing your true colors.
It takes a certain degree of vulnerability to stay in character wherever you go and not let the whims of the world break your stride, but staying in character in the good times, the not-so-good times, and even the in-between times, is how you express who you really are, your values, and what you most aspire for the world.
That day at the grocery store I recognized my co-worker’s behavior as an admirable expression of a value I hold dear and made the decision to incorporate that same trait into my own character, that way the next time I find myself in a similar situation I would know what to do and be empowered to follow through.
What values do you hold dear? Who do you know who demonstrates those values? And how can you mirror these same behaviors with your own character?
It was the perfect plan.
First, I would sneak out of the house when my parents fell asleep.
Then I would walk the two miles to the elementary school.
Finally, I would break into my third grade classroom and steal the teacher’s lesson plans.
It was the perfect plan.
I was willing to try anything to get out of speaking in front of the classroom to present my project. I had already seen Craig literally collapse in front of the whole class while delivering his project, and I wasn’t about to let the same thing happen to me!
Alas, I never went through with that plan—however perfect it may have been.
Funny thing is, while I can still remember the profound grief leading up to it, I have no recollection of actually delivering the presentation. I was a good kid and always did what I was told—so I’m sure I did do it—I just don’t remember it.
This story can serve as a valuable reminder that the profound anxiety, grief, or anger that can sometimes creep into our lives is mostly related to the fears we’re giving our attention to, rather than the actual full reality of our circumstances.
And these emotions can also be used to highlight what we really care about. In my case, I cared about being accepted and maintaining good relations. If I made a fool of myself in front of everyone it could threaten that!
When we sincerely care about something, we become empowered with a heightened level of emotional interest, and the trick is to let that emotion fuel our passion rather than deplete it.
As for me, just remembering this story can put my mind at ease, because it reminds me that all things will pass, no matter how big or troublesome they may appear.
In addition, it reminds me that whenever intense emotions arise it simply indicates that I care—and I’d rather go through life with care than with apathy.
What do you care about?
I'm a mirror (and so are you).