The iconic coach John Wooden used to tell his players, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” You may have opponents in sports that play fair, and face others who cheat at every turn. Players in LIFE are no different, and there’s not much you or I can do about it. What we DO have control over is whether or not we cheat ourselves. We control our actions, and when we choose to cheat ourselves, we are the biggest loser. We have no one to blame but ourselves. So how do we cheat ourselves?
- CHEAT #1- We take the safest route or course of action. “If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” Thomas Aquinas Taking the risky or dangerous opportunities are not always the best option either, simply because they do have risk. But we rob ourselves of what might have been when we allow risk, danger or fear of the unknown overrule what our hearts are telling us is the best choice.
- CHEAT #2- We choose shortcuts over quality. Getting better at whatever it is we do is an admirable quality. We learn the ropes, the tricks of the trade. We are able to produce or perform better than we were a novice, whether through formal education or the “school of hard knocks”. Those types of leaps in efficiency are necessary. What isn’t necessary is to make or choose shortcuts that compromise quality and/or our values. Quicker doesn’t always mean better. We want a diamond cutter or a surgeon who places quality over speed, right? We should expect the same from ourselves.
- CHEAT #3- We fail to focus on the value of the process. Greg Anderson says, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Admiring roses in a vase is pleasant. But how much more enjoyable is that moment if one has prepared the soil, watered and weeded the bush, and stopped to smell the roses along the way! Remember, soon the cut roses will fade, but the bush will remain, and in our process we’ve created something amazing! Treat your life with the same care!
- CHEAT #4- We refuse to take responsibility for failure. Trust me, when you screw up, people know it. You may sneak by with your mess undiscovered from time to time, but for the most part our foibles and failures are on display. We cheat ourselves of the learning opportunity and of other’s respect for us when we pass the buck or deny our own shortcomings. Embrace your mistakes so you can celebrate your victories. WD40 is a popular lubricant with hundreds of uses. Do you know why it is called WD40? Because the first 39 formulations didn’t work! Rovio, the company that create “Angry Birds” had 51 previous products that were failures. Both companies had multiple failures before their ultimate success. They learned, reworked, rebooted and tried again after each failure. So can you!
- CHEAT #5- We flippantly dismiss criticism. There will always be detractors and downers in the peanut gallery. Some people just won’t like you, others just hate to see someone else succeed. But why let their criticism go to waste, regardless of their reason for it? Maybe they were just mean enough or brave enough to point out what we couldn’t see and what others were too kind or unable to see! Accept criticism as a gift, and then you decide whether it’s worthwhile or not.
- CHEAT #6- We ignore the inherent value of people. Everyone has some kind of value. “Four be the things I am wiser to know: Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.” (Dorothy Parker). You see, it doesn’t matter if those we cross paths with value us or our mission. As a “being”, they have value to the universe, to the Creator and they should to us also. You cheat yourself out of valuable learning experiences, passionate relationships and maybe the some of the best times of your life by failing to realize everyone counts!
- CHEAT #7- We leave something on the table. Life is way to short to not give it all you’ve got. Your family deserves your best. Your clients demand your best. Your co-workers need to see your best. Your enemies should be afraid of always seeing your best. YOU owe it to YOU to give this brief moment in time and eternity all of the excellence and mastery you can muster! Don’t cheat yourself by coasting or winging it! Let your best YOU be the real YOU!
Are their other ways we cheat ourselves? Name those I’ve missed below, and how you think we overcome those cheats!