Updated: Dec 19, 2022
Happy New Year! This season is so fitting for reflection, both on the year gone by, and how we want to move into the future.
As a professor in the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, I teach leadership, but my background is in psychology. What I have realized is that guiding people toward becoming better business leaders is also guiding them toward becoming better leaders of their own lives.
I start with a simple premise: leadership is a choice. I ask my students, and I ask you:
On what basis do you make your choices?
Answering that question can launch you on a life-long journey toward your future self. We all have hopes for our future self. You can make choices that will change the future, create better outcomes, generate more meaning, and help shape your future self.
I like to help people understand how to be their own coaches, to listen to and gain wisdom from others and themselves, and thereby go forward toward the future, faster. I call it being wiser, younger.
Steve Jobs once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” That’s a good quote to accompany you on this journey. This is your life. If you don’t know yourself well enough to make choices based on what you value, it’s easier to let other people make choices for you. For many of us, this is quite sustainable and even fulfilling—until it’s not. One day, you may look at yourself and ask, Why am I doing this? What does it all mean? We don’t have to wait for such a crisis of identity to bring us to these questions.
So, become your own coach, your own professor for life. Coach yourself, give yourself feedback, and become your own advocate for your future self and for being more present about who you want to become. You’re going to change. Are you changing in a way that is moving you toward the hopes you have for yourself?
In my workbook, “Choosing Leadership, Revised and Expanded,” I guide readers toward answers for questions by practicing written reflection. For example, one activity in the book is called “Three Questions.”
When it comes to questions, I take inspiration from Grant Hagiya, a bishop in the United Methodist Church, who told me a story about a sentinel that began:
A sentinel was standing guard at night when he heard a noise in the darkness. He called out a question, “Who are you?” As the noise grew louder, he called out a second question, “What are you doing?” Finally, as the stranger approached, the sentinel asked, “Where are you going?”
These three questions are useful for you now. They are central to understanding your identity, your behaviors, and your journey. Ask these questions of yourself and write down your answers.
1. Who are you?
2. What are you doing?
3. Where are you going?
Return to the sentinel’s questions periodically. When you do, be sure to record your answers. Notice how your answers change over time—that’s evidence that you’ve been learning and growing.
In addition to activities, Choosing Leadership, Revised and Expanded, has Leadership Modules for each chapter. These modules provide step-by-step guidance to create experiences designed to enable reflection, explore ideas, and enhance self-understanding. Using the workbook in group experiences creates collective wisdom and encourages you to make better and more thoughtful choices. While gaining self-understanding, you’ll also gain confidence. You will realize that you know how to lead and be wiser, younger.
In the end, you are the only person capable of steering this process, applying knowledge, and changing your behavior. But these questions can get you started on a path—your own path. Enjoy the journey!
About Linda Ginzel
Linda Ginzel is the author of the best-selling workbook, Choosing Leadership, which was recently re-released in a new revised and expanded edition.
Photo credit: Tomer Keysar