Published in Womeninc, August 2007
by Diana Gabriel
My last column talked about congruency – how to be conscious of whether or not we “walk our talk.” I’d like to explore that a little deeper. What does it take to live congruently? What are the challenges, risks, and rewards?
Congruency emerges out of having a clear sense of who we are and what we are about, so that the person we believe ourselves to be, is actually the person we are each day. It has been my experience that this awareness doesn’t just happen naturally. We need to invest ourselves in the process of discovery, using some structure to discover and articulate our values, gifts, strengths and our calling or purpose. Structures can be found in a variety of places, for example, Judith Wright’s book One Decision or taking the strengths assessment in Now Discover Your Strengths, by Marcus Buckingham. Spiritual directors, life coaches and workshops of all kinds can also offer opportunities and tools for us to articulate this important idea of who we are.
It is crucial to commit to a practice of self refection, to being intentional about the changes you want to make and creating some accountability in attaining and sustaining the new habits you are working to create. Most of us need partners to create perennial and pervasive sustainable change.
But is it all too much work? Why should anyone invest in the process of discovery and change? I believe the answer is very simple: the world desperately needs our clarity and is hungry for your commitment to people being treated “right”.
There is near unanimity of opinion among most religions, ethical systems and philosophies that each person should treat others in a decent manner. Almost all of these groups have passages in their holy texts, or writings of their leaders, which promote this “ethic of reciprocity”. In North America, we most often hear it expressed as Christianity’s “Golden Rule” – Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you. It is often regarded as the most concise and general principle of ethics.
Whether you practice a particular religion or not doesn’t matter in terms of embracing the sentiment it evokes. The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute speaks to this a little differently. They talk about how incongruence can be seen as having a Heart at War vs. a Heart at Peace. When we have a Heart at Peace, we are able to see and be with another’s humanity with compassion. I find these words create a powerful image for me to live into.
I invite you to observe yourself for a few weeks and just notice your thoughts, ideas, attitudes, behaviors and actions. Are you in fact living the Golden Rule each and every day? Because we are human, we will fail from time to time. I firmly believe, however, that if each of us is mindful, we can reduce the number of those failures dramatically. Simply ask yourself at the start of each day “What would it take for me to truly live the Golden Rule today?” That small act of intentional, mindful questioning, will allow you to be conscious of your behavior, as you strive to live more congruently each day.