Be True to Your Best Self (Advice from my high school principal)

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When I was in high school, the principal, Mr. Mooney, set a theme for each school year. He’d tower before us at the first “Morning Meeting” (a gathering of the whole school community) and announce the theme as though we’d been waiting on the edge of our seats all summer.

I remember the theme from my senior year: Be true to your best self. At the time, my classmates and I looked at each other and shook our heads at the cheesiness of it all. But looking back, I think Mr. Mooney was on to something.

As a 17 year old, I couldn’t comprehend what it meant to be true to my best self. I still didn’t know who my regular self was never mind the best version of me.

But now, as an adult who finally has clarity on who I am, what I stand for, and what life feels like when I’m at my best, I find myself thinking about Mr. Mooney’s mantra.

When I’m faced with a difficult situation and frozen in the face of taking action—because I’m frustrated, overwhelmed, stuck, or scared—I often ask myself: “What would my best self, the very best version of who I am, do in this situation?

More often than not, this simple question breaks me out of my paralysis. It’s a way of opening up the grounded, confident part of myself that knows exactly what I should do. It’s a tool to think creatively about new and other ways of handling the situation. It’s a way of being honest with myself about what it means to do the right thing—for myself and for others.

And because it’s your best self (not Oprah’s, not Sheryl Sandberg’s, not Amy Poehler’s) you know that you are absolutely capable of doing whatever it is that your best self is calling you to do. It’s just a matter of rising to the occasion.

It might not be the easiest course of action—after all, it wasn’t the first one that you thought up. But it breaks you out of your default so that you can try showing up to the situation in a new way, conquer those feelings of frustration, fear, and feeling stuck, and actually get the results that you want. It’s about responding, not reacting.

Next time you’re faced with a difficult situation, think of Mr. Mooney and ask yourself: “What would my best self do?”

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