It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point in our lives, but it was only a few years ago that I had the epiphany, ‘I am who I want to be.’ That’s when I began defining exactly what I wanted this ‘future me’ to look like.
For many of us, change begins when we start acknowledging our frailties. Aristotle once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” and to really know ourselves, we need to understand our strengths as well as our weaknesses.
On this point, what interests me is how we are often so quick to point out other people’s weaknesses, while ignoring our own. I’m reminded of a woman I know who has an easy-going partner she tends to boss around. She was once telling me how well her partner gets along with his female manager because he’s so subservient, to which I replied, “Yes, you’re right!” She never did see the irony in my response.
In my life, there have been two significant events that triggered change in me. The first was separating from my ex-wife, which released me from having to compromise my words and actions in order to keep the peace at home. Perhaps that’s why I am happily single after 20 years?
The second was starting this column 16 years ago. Not only has writing Chew On It been a form of therapy for me and it’s also played an important role in defining who I am. It’s meant that I’ve had to give serious thought to what my values and principles are and ensure that I am fully convinced of them before putting them down in black and white – even more so because I despise hypocrisy!
Once we’ve acknowledged the changes we need to make, it requires great persistence, diligence and resilience to implement them. As Will Durant (not Aristotle as many people mistakenly believe) put it, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Looking back, it’s easy to see how I’ve changed – from a gregarious extrovert and uncommitted student when I was in Malaysia, to an introvert when I started boarding school, to a more confident individual as I became a better student and excelled in sport, to being someone who was suppressed while married and then embarked on a journey of self-discovery after being separated. These days, I continue to make changes as I refine who I want to be.
While speaking my mind is still not easy for me, I’m now able to speak it with heart and work at getting my message across without being personal or offensive. Unfortunately, my provocative tongue-in-cheek humour still gets me into trouble from time to time!
I constantly challenge myself in situations that make me feel uncomfortable, for example striking up a conversation with people I don’t know, facing people rather than the door in the lift, asking someone’s name when I have forgotten it and tackling those tough conversations that most of us would rather avoid.
I’ve also learnt to stop worrying about what others think of me! Instead, I focus on building my character with respect, integrity, care and an ongoing pursuit of excellence – the principles that Elixr is based on.
I’ll leave you with this: Make the changes you wish for and remember that you don’t have to do it alone. There are family and friends who are willing to support you or, if necessary, help you find the right professional help along the way.