What are the things you are most identified with? Perhaps your work, family relationships, social status, or possessions?
How about your physical appearance – do you dress or groom yourself a certain way in order to appeal to others?
Do you have special talents that you are proud of?
How about a political or nationalistic belief system?
If a stranger came up to you at a cocktail party and asked, “Tell me about yourself,” how would you respond?
Most likely your answer points to the things you identify as you.
As a child I was a very picky eater. I couldn’t stomach most foods and tended toward a very bland diet.
Wise adults would counsel, “You are what you eat.”
I didn’t really know what that meant, but I suspected I must be a pretty bland person then. However, since I wasn’t sprouting french fries, clearly I wasn’t what I ate.
Some philosophers have come closer to the truth with aphorisms such as, “You are what you say” or “You are what you do.” In other words, how we behave is a direct indicator of who we truly are.
Sometimes, perhaps, but definitely not with any consistency.
A far more accurate and telling observation is this: You are what you pay attention to.
A good day is one in which things go very well and our problems are few or nonexistent.
Perhaps the weather is beautiful. Our body is feeling strong and healthy. We got a great night’s sleep. The boss is nice to us, colleagues are supportive, and we get important work completed. Friends and family are doing just fine. Things are peaceful in the world. Our investments are appreciating. Love life is on fire. Meals are delicious. And play time is incredibly fun and relaxing.
We’re feeling appreciated, respected, cared for, and safe.
It’s a good day indeed.
But is it really?
There is an old comic strip with two aliens looking down on earth and seeing a man walking a dog, picking up the dog’s poop as he follows behind. The caption on the comic depicts the question one alien is asking the other: “Which one is master?”
Clearly the man is in the service of the dog and not the other way around.
I think about that comic when I consider the way our thoughts stream through our head. Many of the thoughts we have relate to either worrying about the future or regret of the past.
The thoughts are like a river that we jump in and get swept along.
Clearly we are at the mercy of wherever our thoughts take us. Which is quite unfortunate.
We’re living in historic times. So much pain, disagreement, and the continual display of separate interests.
Yet it is also a time of incredible opportunity. The chance to grow, join, and transform the seeds of sorrow into a framework for happiness and success.
When I first began my career as a young, insecure engineer I walked into the office on my first day and was struck by the homogeneity of the place. All these old men wearing starched white shirts and ties. And by old, I mean 30 years old. I vividly recall thinking, “I could never imagine being that old.”
While 30 quickly came and went, the homogeneous nature of engineering (and corporate business) is taking far longer to evolve into a truly equitable environment where diverse ideas and passionate people are recognized and rewarded based on nothing but their impact.