Once a very wise, world-traveled priest and dear friend told me that the only thing he knew “for sure” was that he didn’t know anything for sure. Maybe that’s why I am instantly wary of anyone who is dogmatic about a topic, inflexible and unable to consider another’s perspective.
But, if nothing is “for sure,” what can we hold true and use as a guide? Sometime, somewhere, someone in my lifelong pursuit of writing used a warm-up exercise of asking me to write down as many endings as possible to the phrase “I believe….”
Here’s a random sample of what I wrote:
I believe change is constant and learning to anticipate it, embrace it, love it, dance with it, will enable me to be content, well adjusted and happy.
I believe I can and do change.
I believe between stimulus and response there is a space and in that space, I choose how to respond and in choosing, I control my destiny and happiness. It’s not what happens to me, but how I respond to what happens.
I believe everyone is created equal, deserves kindness, understanding and respect.
I believe God is love and love is God. They exist together and where one is the other is.
I believe it’s not how someone feels about me, but how I make them feel about themselves that is the basis of every relationship.
I believe that while I may not like someone’s behavior, I can never know what motivated it. Consequently, I believe in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt.
I believe today’s crisis is as significant as a dead skunk in the road of life. By tomorrow, today’s crisis is forgotten, because it probably wasn’t a crisis at all. Don’t make it one.
I believe holding a grudge is like burning down my own house to kill a rat. Forgive and forget.
I believe life is about trade-offs. I can choose to do anything I want, if I’m willing to pay the price.
I believe leadership is simply an opportunity to carry the torch, but if I begin to think that people are following me rather than the torch, I will fail and fall.
These are a few of the dozens of “I believe” statements that I created for myself that day and have refined and referenced over many years. It was helpful as a writing exercise, but more importantly it established a foundation from which to lead, live, love and learn.
It may seem contradictory, but it’s from a foundation of beliefs that I have the confidence to exercise tolerance, flexibility and entertain new thoughts and perspectives. Without a foundation, I would be inconsistent in my leadership and relationships, and ultimately not be flexible and secure enough to consider the opinions of others.
Try it for yourself. I believe …
Jane Scott is the President & CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Club, a 41-year old organization that promotes free speech by convening meaningful conversations every week. CMC’s conversations present and encourage many perspectives, on a variety of topics, and all forums are open to everyone.