I really REALLY love this quote from the beginning of David Copperfield:
“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will belong to anybody else, these pages must show.”
What is Copperfield talking about here?
Is being the hero of your own life easier said than done?
It’s been a long time since I read David Copperfield. Since I can’t transport myself back to college, when I got to know this character (along with Esther Summerson, from my favorite Dickens novel, Bleak House), I’ll have to offer up my take on it in the here and now.
Since I’ve been reading a lot of material on leadership and success, I’ll do an off the cuff take on it from what I’ve read and from my own experience.
Being the hero of your own life means:
- You recognize you always have a choice. You’ve overcome (or you never bought into it in the first place) that false mode of thinking you don’t have a choice in certain circumstances. You always have a choice. Always. You may not have control over some circumstances, but you can always choose how you respond to them.
- You take personal responsibility for everything in your life. You recognize the role you’ve played in getting you where you are today — whether you love where you are or hate it. This doesn’t mean taking responsibility for other adults, enduring bad behavior, or letting people take advantage of you. It means you have a handle on your own “stuff.” You don’t blame others for your misfortunes — you recognize your role in them and take necessary (sometimes hard) steps to have things unfold differently next time.
- You are grateful for everything you have. Your health, your home, your spouse, your pets, your clients, your job . . . this doesn’t mean you have no problems (everyone has problems). It also doesn’t mean that you don’t have big(ger) goals, or that you’re not seeking to improve in some areas. Quite the contrary in fact. When you genuinely appreciate what you have NOW, you build a strong foundation for moving forward, solving problems more quickly, and getting more of what you want — gratitude is like a magnet.
- Surrounding yourself with people you admire and respect. You have a choice about who you spend your time with. Who you live with, who you marry, who you work with, who you take on as a client . . . when you assess the relationships in your life and realize that most of them are with people you admire, respect, and want to emulate in some way, you know you’ve made some damn good choices.
- You ask for support more often than you ever dreamed – and get it. This was hardest for me to grasp. I was raised to be independent and self sufficient. I spent my first career in an environment where support was not readily given — and I felt asking for it would make me look weak — and weaken my character. It took me years to learn the fallacy of this way of thinking. Getting support in this context means that you’re already doing the above four things to the best of your ability (not perfectly — no one does them perfectly), and that you ask for support from a place of strength, not neediness, inadequacy or weakness. You find that, way more often than not, people are glad to support you.
What do you think?
Have I nailed this? Missed the mark? Would you add anything?
Let’s have a conversation in the comments.