Our Better Selves
by Gary Burnison
War in Ukraine. A lingering pandemic and crushing self-isolation. Yet another mass shooting. Staggering inflation. And so much more ….
Then there are the personal tragedies—that instantly put everything into perspective. This week, friends of mine received the call that is every parent’s worst nightmare. It was from the university, notifying my friends that their daughter had died. As the father of five children, I had no words for this family, other than my shock and grief.
With all that befalls us—from the macro to the micro—we are reminded that life is fragile. We can never take it for granted. While tragedy is part of life, an inescapable aspect of our human condition, good—paradoxically, perhaps—is still inherent in this world
And that’s the essence of our leadership journey—emotionally and sometimes literally helping people process and progress, from one place to another. But in order to lead others, we must first lead ourselves. The change we wish to see in others begins with the person we see in the mirror. After all, it is virtually impossible to transform a team or an organization without first transforming ourselves.
Each day we are alive, we have a fresh start and a new opportunity to become the better self—the better part of us.
That better self is unique to each of us—our only way forward. It embodies our growth, leading us ever upward to who we can become. It inspires us to do more, be more—whether we’re helping a neighbor or trying to do good in the world.
With our deeper perspective, we stop chasing after what we believe will make us happy—usually things like money, possessions, leisure time, adventure, even a job title. We no longer tell ourselves that when we get this, can afford that, arrive there, we will be happy—because we know that everything we cherish can be gone, in seconds. After all, happiness is not given to us, it is recognized by us.
The fact is life is always renewing—a theme that resonates even more personally now, at a time of the year that’s closely associated with rebirth, restoration, and rejuvenation.
We reflect. Reflection is the only way to become our better selves—as leaders, colleagues, citizens, family members, and friends. As we reflect on who we are and, more importantly, who we want to become, we paint a vision for our future. We become more self-aware, which precedes self-change and self-improvement.
We reset. When our circuit breakers get tripped, it’s time for a reset—starting with our mindset. We leave behind what we’ve done in the past and imagine how we can do even better. But imagining, alone, does not suffice. We put our vision into action—and our purpose into practice. At every level, we begin to lead differently—grounded in the human experiences of empathy, authenticity, and connection.
We are renewed. Here are the fruits of the journey as our better selves begin to take shape. We are never done. As long as we are alive, we are always evolving. But as we contemplate just how far we have come, we see more clearly what we can become.
There is goodness in all of us—and often it comes out the most in times of pain and suffering. It is tested in extremes, refined by obstacles, and reflected through grace. It is our better selves—inspiring others to believe that tomorrow can indeed be better than today.
Originally published by Korn Ferry.