Enhancing these endowments requires us to nurture and exercise them continuously. Sharpening the saw once a week or once a month just isn't enough. It's too superficial. It's like a meal. Yesterday's meal will not satisfy today's hunger. Last Sunday's big meal won't prepare me for this Thursday's ethical challenge. I will be much better prepared if I meditate every morning and visualize myself dealing with that challenge with authenticity, openness, honesty, and with as much wisdom as I can bring to bear on it.
Here are four ways to nurture your unique endowments:
- Nurture self-awareness by keeping a personal journal. Keeping a personal journal — a daily in-depth analysis and evaluation of your experiences — is a high-leverage activity that increases self-awareness and enhances all the endowments and the synergy among them.
- Educate your conscience by learning, listening, and responding. Most of us work and live in environments that are rather hostile to the development of conscience. To hear the conscience clearly often requires us to be reflective or meditative, a condition we rarely choose or find. We're inundated by activity, noise, conditioning, media messages, and flawed paradigms that dull our sensitivity to that quiet inner voice that would teach us of "true north" principles and our own degree of congruency with them. I've heard executives say that they can't win this battle of conscience because expediencies require lies, cover-ups, deceit, or game playing. "That's just part of the job," they say. I disagree. I think such rationalization undermines trust within their cultures. If you have back-room manipulation and bad mouthing, you will have a low-trust culture. A life of total integrity is the only one worth striving for. Granted, it's a struggle. Some trusted advisors, PR agents, accountants, and legal counselors might say, "This will be political suicide," or "This will be bad for our image, and so let's cover up or lie." You have to look at each case on its own merit. No case is black and white. It takes real judgment to know what you should do. You may feel that you operate "between a rock and a hard place." Still, with a well-educated conscience or internal compass, you will rarely, if ever, be in a situation where you only have one bad option. You will always have choices. If you wisely exercise your unique endowments, some moral option will be open to you. So much depends on how well you educate your conscience, your internal compass. When my kids were in athletics, they paid the price to get their bodies coordinated with their minds. You've got to do the same with your own conscience regularly. The more internal uncertainty you feel, the larger the grey areas will be. You will always have some grey areas, particularly at the extremity of your education and experience. And to grow, you need to go to that extremity and learn to make those choices based on what you honestly believe to be the right thing to do.
- Nurture independent will by making and keeping promises. One of the best ways to strengthen our independent will is to make and keep promises. Each time we do, we make deposits in our personal integrity account the amount of trust we have in ourselves, in our ability to walk our talk. To build personal integrity, start by making and keeping small promises. Take it a step and a day at a time.
- Develop creative imagination through visualization. Visualization, a high-leverage mental exercise used by world-class athletes and performers, may also be used to improve your quality of life. For example, you might visualize yourself in some circumstance that would normally create discomfort or pain. In your mind's eye, instead of seeing yourself react as you normally do, see yourself acting on the basis of the principles and values in your mission statement. The best way to predict your future is to create it.
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About the AuthorMore Content by Stephen R. Covey