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Leadership Thought #383 – You Get to Decide How You Will Behave

July 11, 2012

As you behave towards others, expect that others will behave to... | Picture Quotes

There are many things in life beyond our realm of control, but you get to decide how you behave.  You can take the high road or low road.  You follow the belief that two wrongs do not make a right or you can escalate the pattern of bad behavior.  You can continually allow people to stretch your moral/ethical boundaries, or you can stick to them.  You can play the victim or move on.  You can act before you think or think before you act.  I listened to a speaker utter the phrase many years ago that, “we are what we tolerate” and it resonated with me right away.  We are also what we continually do and who we do it with.

Human beings are imperfect.  We make mistakes.  However, not all flawed behavior is equal.  When confronted with stressful or less than ideal circumstances, the two questions we should repeatedly ask ourselves are:

  • Why are we doing what we are doing?
  • What are the implications of our actions?


You learn a lot about yourself when you ask “why” questions.  If your motivations aren’t constructive, then you need to step back and reflect more carefully on what you are doing.  In addition, no one lives in a vacuum and our actions do affect other people.  I have seen many innocent victims of injurious behavior make things worse.  Often, they hurt themselves even more trying to retaliate against the person who hurt them. The “low road” is no place to travel.  My mother used to say, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” and she was right.

I often tell my kids I wish I could protect them from all the terrible things that happen in life, but I cannot.  It isn’t possible or healthy to try and live your life in a bubble.  Things can get complicated, messy, and hard, but believe in yourself and your ability to navigate whatever obstacles are strewn in your path.  Embrace your inner moral compass.  We are the heroes of our own life and can choose to be resilient and act heroically (or not).  To paraphrase Goethe, “character is forged in the fires of adversity.”  All of us have a great capacity to do what is right or what is wrong.  You get to decide how you will behave.  I encourage you to do your best to make the RIGHT choices.  Every day is a new opportunity to grow and get better as a human being.