What do people care about more than anything else?
What are we willing to go great lengths to protect?
We care about what others think of us so much that we lie to keep appearances, fold on our own plans for life and play games to make ourselves appear as someone that is purely inauthentic. Managing reputation often becomes creating personas that you believe create value for yourself in the eyes of others. Many may disagree with this notion, but take an inventory of how many personas you have. Do you show up one way in church? Do you show up yet another way for your parents? Are you gregarious with your friends yet meek at work? If you appear differently to people depending on who is in front of you then you are managing reputations instead of authentically living life.
In-congruence in character leads to immobilizing amounts of stress. You are chipping away at the fabric of your integrity for the admiration of others. Over time this leaves you with nothing. I have experienced this firsthand. I am a recovering addict to reputation management. As a former school leader, my work called for me to be a believer of educational policy and seller of the idea that a college education would deliver the promise of the American dream to the poor and disenfranchised. I held contempt for that idea while I went to work everyday and acted like the best thing my students could receive was acceptance to college. In my heart I believe the educational system’s acceptance of them and developing a sense of self-directed desire for education, on their terms, is what really matters. The in-congruence of the message delivered versus the message believed led me to question who I am fundamentally. I spent 12+ hours a day being someone I did not support. I didn’t realize how stressed I was until I left to seek congruence in my life.
How many of you can say that you believe in every moment of your lives? How many of you bought the idea that you had to compromise your beliefs and goals in life to eventually do the things you want to do in retirement or during your spare time? This is the uninspired rhetoric of reputation managers that will never cause revolution in thought. When people lack the integrity to let who they are surface, the world is robbed of the uniqueness that is you.
The Lie Detector
How can you tell if you are leading a life of in-congruence? Answer the following questions “yes” or “no” and record your responses mentally.
- Do you act differently depending on the group of people you are addressing?
- Have you lied to people in the past when asked a personal question?
- When in conversation do you find yourself agreeing to statements/ideas that you do not fundamentally believe to be true?
- Do you find yourself acting out of ‘politeness?’
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time for a congruence audit. The congruence audit is simple, it’s an inventory of the things that are most important to you compared with how many hours a day you spend actually doing them. I found that spending time with my wife is important, but I was spending 12 hours a day working instead of spending time with my wife. Learning was also important, but I was spending almost 0 hours a week learning things that were not job-related. I was not being true to myself.
Take a second to do an audit for yourself and see how much time you spend doing the things that make you happy and fulfilled. Your life belongs to you, not your job or anyone else, and finding a way to prioritize what you think is important should be your first priority. By extension, if you do what you love money and a reputation for being congruent and having integrity will follow. People may not like you but they will respect you. Greater than that, you will love yourself and harbor no resentment, regret or discontent.
Congruence Audit Directions:
- Write down everything that is currently important to you, interests you and things that you enjoy doing
- Number the list in order of importance
- Start with the most important thing, how many hours have you spent on this in the last week?
- Work down your list and write the number of hours you have spent on each item in the past week
Review your responses. What came up for you? Are you living your life or just managing reputations? Take your top five most important items from that list and schedule time in your next week to work towards them. Come back to report how your week of congruence went by commenting.