Lead With Your Best Self in '08


For some years now I have finished this weekly missive with the line “lead with your best self.”  It implies that you always have a choice.  And that there are different selves within.  Sometimes you’re your worst, worse, fair, good, better, or best self.  So, at any moment there’s a choice.  And somewhere within you there’s a best self.  How do you bring out that “best self?”

Jews in the High Holy Days, Muslims in Ramadan, and Christians in Lent recommit to a best self through reflection and repentance, with forms of fasting and sacrifice and self denial.  The secular occasion of New Years offers a chance to think about – and even Resolve-to-Be our best Self.  Many years many of us miss this golden chance. 

I wonder if we fail to make resolutions to be our best self, because this secular moment skips over the anticipatory period of reflection, atonement, repentance and cleansing associated with those religious new beginnings.  Most of us are too busy with gift-giving and family-enjoying to stop for half a second to look back and reflect.  I suspect that if we don’t admit that we screwed it up last time, then deep down in our subconscious, it must seem foolish if not futile to make whole new resolutions.  Maybe we should reform this New Years Day thing to add a day to make peace with the shortfalls of resolutions gone bad, shake off the dust, seek forgiveness and a new beginning.  Maybe you can say simply to yourself, “I haven’t always led with my best self, but I’m letting all that go.”

I wonder if the other problem many of us have with resolution-making is that this New Year (in Capitals) is often devoid of G-d.  Resolutions lack mighty purpose.  Losing weight and saving money are fine, but this is the beginning of a whole New Year – wow, a whole new year!  So why not aim for our Best Self, for things that Really Matter, bringing about Peace and Justice, Liberty and Love.  Our typical resolutions suffer from a lack of G-d in another way.  To really make good on meaningful Resolutions, we do well to turn to a Higher Power.  So often in our secular world we lose the sense of the enormous possibility if we align ourselves with God.  If your past resolutions have lacked the Meaning to motivate or the Support to sustain you, perhaps there’s a different way to begin in ’08 to Resolve to

Lead with your best Self!


  • Wow, what a powerful start to 2008 RFL posts! I am printing this one and clipping it to the board just to the right of my monitor screen (where I can read it every day!). Thank you,

  • Very thoughtful way to re-commit to being a better person and building both inwardly and outwardly. Thanks

    • I agree! This is both thoughtful, and, on the right track for how positive change really occurs. All the research ,(Prochaska, etc.), point to the importance of the preparation stage as being truly vital for succesful change. Your comments about “reflection” have everything to do with this. Thanks!
      Lisa Pasbjerg, LMSW, DCSW
      Founder and Principal, FOCUSED COACHING

  • Right on! Or, Amen!(this covers both the secular or non secular “big-time” approval of this message). I have to wonder, though, that as I bring true reflection into resolving to do better, that I can also muster the necessary strength through G-d to follow through. I’m realizing that working for change personally, and socially comes with struggle, heart break and even rebuke & unpopularity…sometimes challenge by others to you and you’re motives and very integrity. I admit, I do falter. Thank you Mr. Mulhern; change really is guided by a higher power! C.

  • Thanks for this note Dan and others. Just before the holidays I sent this note to our staff, slightly edited to take out personal stuff:

    Thank you for all you’ve done throughout the year and especially in the past few weeks as we’ve been making the transition with xx leaving, xx having left, xx off to have her baby, and xx about to leave. You have picked up extra duties to ensure that we keep serving our staff and their families in Prague, Washington and the bureaus.

    As I mentioned at lunch on Friday, please think about your top 3 professional accomplishments in 2007. I’d like a note from each person by 15 January. Reviewing the past year is a good practice generally and also as we prepare for the new year, a new director of HR (don’t know when that will be!) and new Chief Operating Officer (don’t know when that will be either!). And in Prague we might use this review when the president joins us for a Friday lunch.

    • Hi Cathy, I hope you also shared your top accomplishments with your staff (assuming at the lunch). If not, I would do so. Otherwise, it looks like a one-way directive. It is great to get everyone involved with this. I may do the same!

    • Thanks for your comments. My plan was to start my year off with reflections…and wham somehow I got caught up in the festivities of the holiday and the shopping after. I lost my focus!

      Your comments are a perfect reminder for me to get busy, take time for reflections and do the things I value most.

      Thank you for your tireless efforts to keep us all motivated in 2007, and to help keep our focus on our creator who can help us lead even in our worst times with our BEST self!

      • Dan,
        I have passed on the web site information to all my teaching staff (about sixty people) as well as the members of our pastoral staff. They tell me they enjoy it. Hopefully they will join the conversation.

        I incorporated your article in a class discussion today. Our topic was vocation. I posed the following question; how do you know the differnce between someone who is just doing their job and someone who uses their God given talent and ability for their life’s vocation? We had a thought provoking conversation. The kids thought you were great! It made me think I could have used your article about getting spizzed.

  • And on the other hand, the original plan, according to the Garden of Eden story, was simply to enjoy, not judge what’s good, better, best, fair, or worse. What would the new year look like if we practiced this, simply enjoying each other’s strengths and assets? How much love there’d be! According to the story, it’s only after the first two humans ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thinking it would make them godlike, that things started going downhill. That was a lie, of course, told by the Deceiver, for later in Christian scripture we learn that God is love, and that’s so much different from being a judge, isn’t it? At least in our human experience…

    Why do we humans so often tend to think we have a better idea than G-d?

    Taking time to reflect on our own and other’s assets is worthwhile because there are many benefits to focusing on gratitude, according to Deborah Norville’s book on making the science of gratitude work for you.

    I appreciate this column, this blog, and its authors for it’s evident that all involved want to do their part to bring this world back to the perfection of that original garden.

    Here’s how I aim for that: my resolution, for several years, has been to “Have more fun!” It’s fun to find things to appreciate in people who are used to being judged. I don’t always succeed, but I find it a worthwhile goal.

    I wish you all much fun in 2008.

  • Activadvocate,
    I totally love your resolution – have more fun. I’ve just finished a wonderful book called Neighbors and Strangers; it’s the story of a Catholic theologian who lives among Orthodox Jews, so the Torah is on my mind. Genesis also says that on the 7th day G-d rested, and Orthodox Jews have managed to preserve that blessed experience of savoring life on the Sabbath, giving a whole day to G-d and to the enjoyment of creation. So, yeh, we oughta love this darned amazing life we have been given.
    Having said that, I’m not so with you on Eden. To me, the garden is an allegory of a time of unconscious innocence. We’re not unconsciously innocent any longer; we do and we should discriminate between poor, fair, and best. I sure know that sometimes my kids experience a fair or even poor dad from time to time, and I have a duty that I happily strive to embrace by leading with my best self . . . which, by the way, probably often takes me right back to “have fun” with these kids and this family.
    Thanks for giving me a smile and a great resolution to participate in!
    — Dan

  • Dan,

    Your RFL was beautiful. I love it when you and I are on the same page. I wish that we were more on the same page when we worked together especially with guest ideas (I was a strong advocate to get Chuck Norris on the show, even though he would not be able to talk leadership). Either way, this reminds me of my favorite new years verse that works PERFECTLY with your message:

    Lamentations 3:40 (The Message): “Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and re-order our lives under God.”

    You’re thoughts are very in tune with JC’s teaching. Thanks for the inspiration!!!! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!


  • Thanks for an inspirational RFL to start the new year. Those “anticipatory periods of reflection” all take time. Tough to find that for self reflection, but absolutely necessary for letting go of times when we didn’t lead with our best selves, times when we talked it, but didn’t live it. Enormous possibilities are there when we are reminded through reflection and rededication that our roles in leadership are not about ourselves. We lead by serving.

  • Thanks for boldness to proclaim dependancy on God in a time when many run from any suggestion of it. Only through dependance on Him can we achieve anything. Keep up the good work!

  • I completely agree with the idea that we should be looking for greater purpose in life. I have taken this idea one step further. Instead of making resolutions this year, I have made a list of questions. They are questions that I alone cannot answer. I am holding them up to God. Examples:
    1. Is this the career that you intend for me or is there a better way to serve you?
    2. How can I be a better father to my children and a better husband to my wife?
    3. What gifts do you want me to focus on using and developing this year?

    So I will ask these questions on a regular basis, then stop and listen. For me, 2008 will be a year of discernment and then action…with my best self.

  • Good post. You make some great points that most people do not fully understand.

    “Jews in the High Holy Days, Muslims in Ramadan, and Christians in Lent recommit to a best self through reflection and repentance, with forms of fasting and sacrifice and self denial. The secular occasion of New Years offers a chance to think about – and even Resolve-to-Be our best Self. Many years many of us miss this golden chance. ”

    I like how you explained that. Very helpful. Thanks.

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