Monday, July 25, 2011

If You Only Remember One Thing...

Life has a funny way of putting a crossroads in an unexpected place. When this critical decision surfaces it's often impossible to seek counsel or refer to a cache of life experiences. The mind starts to race and can barely focus on teachings beyond the size of a bumper sticker. When faced with a turning point, what sage advice can be easily recalled and always correct?
"This above all: to thine ownself be true, and it must follow, 
as night the day, Thou canst be false to any man."
Polonius to his son, Laertes
Hamlet, Act I, Scene III
Polonius offers a treasure trove of life advice to his son in this exchange. Immediately preceding "to thine ownself be true" Polonius warns "neither a borrower or a lender be". (For more on Shakespeare's Hamlet see SparkNotes or your favorite high school English teacher.) Using my bumper sticker metric, "to thine ownself be true" is the clear choice for easy recall and never wrong advice.

Think about it. You're given an either/or decision of importance. It's hard to concentrate and the wrong choice will create havoc. Whatcha gonna do? Simple: To thine ownself be true. Do what serves you best. 

Self-truth doesn't mean choosing for you, all else be damned. Unless you're an island your choice effects others. You must take your responsibilities seriously. Sometimes (often?) choosing in a manner true to you actually benefits someone more than yourself. That's not self-untrue, that's adulthood, communal living or simply non-narcissim. There is nothing untrue about recognizing that others rely on you. What if your choice is true to yourself and fails miserably?

Whenever you make a choice, there is always a possibility that you chose incorrectly. So what? You made the best decision you could and you will figure things out. Consider the reverse. You made a choice that wasn't the true you and the decision blew up. Not only did you make the wrong decision, you did it as an idiot. Wrong and foolish. Wouldn't merely wrong be so much better?

Life is complicated. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's the myriad decisions and the ripple effect on the people you love that makes life confounding...and worth living.  I love ice cream, both chocolate and vanilla, but there's a reason it isn't Baskin-Robbins 2 Flavors.  When faced with a perplexing decision, "To thine ownself be true" and you'll always make the right choice.

How about you? If you have one lesson you can teach and it needs to fit a bumper sticker, what would that lesson be? Feel free to go up to two bumper sticker lengths, if it will help.

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