What Is Honest Self-Talk?

The ideas about oaths and pledges and other codes of ethics that I present throughout this blog relate to our basic inegrity — how we respect and think about other people. This is one sense of “self-talk.” There is, however, another sense of self-talk that I also want to explore in this blog: what we say (and, therefore, think) about ourselves. And it is this topic that I will turn to in a number of future blogs.
     Indeed perhaps the most important person that we need to be respectful towards is our self. If honesty and open communication are vital virtues to hold in interpersonal relations, then they are at least as vital, if not more vital, to hold in dealing with ourselves: If it makes sense to be respectful towards others, then it certainly makes sense to be respectful towards ourselves.
     In fact, the truism is true: You cannot love others if you do not first love yourself. For this reason, this blog deals not just with integrity in our dealings with others but also honest self-talk. For much of what we say about ourselves (whether said to ourselves or to others) not only reflects who we think we are but also helps determine who we become. If we are honest with ourselves, such self-talk can allow us to change the negative perceptions we have of ourselves as well as re-evaluate and remove the negative fears, habits, assumptions, and prejudices that run our lives. (And unfortunately, when we are dishonest with ourselves, such self-talk can be a powerful reenforcer of negative self-perceptions.)
     Yet sometimes we treat ourselves with utter disrespect. We sabotage ourselves when we say things like “I’m a terrible person,” or “I’ll never amount to anything,” or “I can’t be loving,” or “I don’t deserve to be loved.” Such self-judgements are obviously usually not honest when the people who say them are, in fact, decent people — flawed perhaps, but not deserving of such self-deprecation.
     The meaning of honesty, though, is not necessarily what we normally think it is. For within the complexity of life, honesty — truth — about oneself is often hidden amidst a fog of self-deception, defensiveness, and long-established habit. It’s not that we intentionally want to be dishonest about ourselves, but often the most difficult thing to see clearly is the thing that we are closest to — and there’s nothing we’re closer to than ourselves. So while we may think of “being honest with ourselves” as mainly just a matter of identifying our faults and acknowledging them, real honesty often means acknowledging your strengths when all the bad experiences and mistaken assumptions muddle your judgements about yourself. And while it is certainly admirable to admit when you’re wrong or when you’re lacking in skill and when another person is more talented and capable at something than yourself (in other words, to be humble about your talents and generous about others’), it requires a great deal of courage — perhaps even more courage — to have the guts to admit that the bad experiences and traumas that you’ve had in your life and the bad habits that you’ve developed throughout your life do not have to define (or continue to define) who you are (or can be) — that, in short, they define only part of you and the rest of you can rise above it.
     Of course, someone who is shot in the heart and is bleeding to death is deluding himself — i.e., lying to himself — if he thinks that he’s going to magically stop the bleeding and have a much longer life. For him, it could be honestly said that that trauma will define the rest of his (dramatically shortened) life and that he can’t rise above it. But I’m not talking about those kinds of situations, in which the end is truly at hand. Rather, I’m talking about the courage to make an effort to see beyond the effects of one’s traumas and experiences, and to acknowledge that they need not be an excuse for everything in one’s past, present, or future. That is being honest with yourself.
     Honesty often entails looking beyond the surface — and sometimes way beyond the surface. Being honest often means digging into your assumptions to determine what’s true and what’s not. It requires looking into what we know — or, more precisely, what we think we know — about our condition, our experience, our history. It requires, in short, a holistic approach, looking at the whole picture.
     And without having the whole picture, we are liable to make judgements about ourselves that are just plain false. I’m going to talk more about this holistic approach in future posts. And I have also found that a holistic approach also applies to issues of public policy (which I’ll be discussing in the Honest Government blog), for just as we need to look at our whole experience in judging honestly who we truly are (and can become), we also need to look at the larger effects of a given public policy in deciding whether that policy is honestly good or bad. (Excessive government welfare, for instance, may be, on the surface, a “good” thing, but if it ultimately becomes a disincentive to self-confidence, independence, and responsibility, then it cannot be honestly a good thing.)
     Indeed, being honest with ourselves can ultimately change not only our personal lives but also public policy: If impoverished people, for instance, can honestly acknowledge that they have the capacity to rise above their situation and their history and therefore not require a life-time of hand-outs, then they not only build self-confidence and overcome much of their problems but they also change the way they (and society at large) look at such public policies as government welfare.


Bob Parsons’ Philosophy of Life

Although the following "rules" were designed by Bob Parsons (the founding CEO of GoDaddy.com) to be rules for business success, they also represent a declaration of generally good ways to be. After all, true success in life is among the noblest of all pursuits.

Since these rules first appeared in his Hot Points blog on July 6, 2006, they have garnered comments from several other websites, including Life Hacker, which includes additional suggestions in its "comments" section.

The following "rules for survival" are included with the permission of Bob Parsons (http://www.bobparsons.com) and are Copyright 2004-2006 by Bob Parsons. All rights reserved. (Let us know — by using the "comments" link below — what you think of these rules and what other rules you think are of value!)

1. Get and stay out of your comfort zone. I believe that not much happens of any significance when we're in our comfort zone. I hear people say, "But I'm concerned about security." My response to that is simple: "Security is for cadavers."

2. Never give up. Almost nothing works the first time it's attempted. Just because what you're doing does not seem to be working, doesn't mean it won't work. It just means that it might not work the way you're doing it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn't have an opportunity.

3. When you're ready to quit, you're closer than you think. There's an old Chinese saying that I just love, and I believe it is so true. It goes like this: "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed."

4. With regard to whatever worries you, not only accept the worst thing that could happen, but make it a point to quantify what the worst thing could be. Very seldom will the worst consequence be anywhere near as bad as a cloud of "undefined consequences." My father would tell me early on, when I was struggling and losing my shirt trying to get Parsons Technology going, "Well, Robert, if it doesn't work, they can't eat you."

5. Focus on what you want to have happen. Remember that old saying, "As you think, so shall you be."

6. Take things a day at a time. No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don't look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment. You can get through anything one day at a time.

7. Always be moving forward. Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new. The moment you stop improving your organization, it starts to die. Make it your goal to be better each and every day, in some small way. Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages.

8. Be quick to decide. Remember what General George S. Patton said: "A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow."

9. Measure everything of significance. I swear this is true. Anything that is measured and watched, improves.

10. Anything that is not managed will deteriorate. If you want to uncover problems you don't know about, take a few moments and look closely at the areas you haven't examined for a while. I guarantee you problems will be there.

11. Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you're doing. When you look at your competitors, remember that everything looks perfect at a distance. Even the planet Earth, if you get far enough into space, looks like a peaceful place.

12. Never let anybody push you around. In our society, with our laws and even playing field, you have just as much right to what you're doing as anyone else, provided that what you're doing is legal.

13. Never expect life to be fair. Life isn't fair. You make your own breaks. You'll be doing good if the only meaning fair has to you, is something that you pay when you get

14. Solve your own problems. You'll find that by coming up with your own solutions, you'll develop a competitive edge. Masura Ibuka, the co-founder of SONY, said it best: "You never succeed in technology, business, or anything by following the others." There's also an old Asian saying that I remind myself of frequently. It goes like this: "A wise man keeps his own counsel."

15. Don't take yourself too seriously. Lighten up. Often, at least half of what we accomplish is due to luck. None of us are in control as much as we like to think we are.

16. There's always a reason to smile. Find it. After all, you're really lucky just to be alive. Life is short. More and more, I agree with my little brother. He always reminds me: "We're not here for a long time; we're here for a good time."

Ethical Wills

Though they are not generally either pledges, oaths, or promises, I want to discuss ethical wills because they are a unique
form of ethical declaration: a declaration of principles that one wishes to pass on to others and to live on in others long after one's own death. Specifically, "Ethical wills are a way to share your values, blessings, life's lessons, hopes and dreams for the future, love, and forgiveness with your family, friends, and community," as Barry K. Baines says on his website ethicalwill.com.

"Ethical wills are not new. The Hebrew Bible first described ethical wills 3000 years ago (Genesis Ch. 49). References to this tradition are also found in the Christian Bible (John Ch. 15-18) and in other cultures. Initially, ethical wills were transmitted orally. Over time, they evolved into written documents. 'Ethical wills' are not considered legal documents as compared to 'living wills' and your 'last will and testament' which are. Today, ethical wills are being written by people at turning points in their lives: facing challenging life situations and at transitional life stages. They are usually shared with family and community while the writer is still alive."

The following are links to various ethical wills found on the Internet. (Related topics: Refer to Promoting codes of ethics, pledges, etc. and Writing codes of ethics, pledges, etc..)

Methods of Promoting Codes of Ethics, Pledges, etc.

The following articles, arranged randomly, link directly to articles or websites that illustrate specific examples of methods used by various groups to promote the use of their codes, oaths, pledges, etc..

How to Write Codes of Ethics, Pledges, etc.

The following articles, arranged randomly, provide various perspectives on how to create a code of ethics primarily. And most also relate either directly or indirectly to other forms of promise (i.e., oaths, pledges, etc.).