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What is a Good Life? #9
Good day to you all,
Thanks again for your interest in this newsletter.
If this is your first time reading this newsletter, please click here for background information on the project and how it is structured (4 separate sections).
The key theme this week is Honesty.
Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
1. This week’s interview – Honesty
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Eva*. Eva has a leadership role in product design. The last year provided time for self-reflection, and she made impactful discoveries around the role of honesty in her life.
*not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
A good life is living with clarity. For most of my life I didn't have a lot of clarity, whether it was understanding what I wanted or needed. I used external validations to compensate for those moments of questioning - I focused on material gains, getting a better job and exercising a lot. All of these were compensations because I lacked an inner compass and direction.
How did you develop greater clarity?
By learning to be honest with myself around my true intentions. This honesty gave me an anchor internally that became my compass.
Right now, I have confidence in myself that I will be able to face any situation. This means I'm confident that if I need help, I will ask for it; if the situation is not useful to me, I will admit it to myself and do something about it. All in all, I'm confident that I will take responsibility for my own choices and decisions.
Can you elaborate on the idea of being honest with your intentions?
Through a lot of self-reflection this last year, I recognised I wasn’t honest with myself for most of my life, especially in relationships with others. For example, I may have said to someone, “Let's get together because I want to help you with this thing”.
I may have momentarily believed this was what I intended to do, but something nagged at me in the back of my mind saying it felt dishonest. So, when I dissected this behaviour a bit further, I realised what I really wanted was to spend time with this person. But I was afraid to be honest about my true intention because I feared rejection.
How has honesty contributed to your experience of a good life?
Oh, man, being honest with myself was the first piece of an elaborate domino setup. You tumble one piece and everything just falls into place. After facing my fear of rejection, and by practicing being honest about my intentions, I think I'm no longer afraid to tell somebody my true feelings.
This also led to great changes at work. I wasn’t always able to tell my direct reports exactly what's wrong. I had a tendency to be diplomatic and give feedback in a round-about way. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t as straightforward as it could be. Nowadays it’s a lot easier for me to have open and honest conversations with my direct reports.
I can relate to that, before being more honest with others, I had to be more honest with myself…
Yeah, I see it as a practice. Being honest with myself is a practice that requires recognising, “What am I thinking?” “What am I feeling?” “Why am I feeling this or thinking that?” “What’s at the root of that?” I questioned myself until I got comfortable admitting the truth to myself.
I don’t worry about things that used to worry me, like how I’m perceived by others. Going back to my point about work, I'm no longer afraid of speaking up in front of other leaders in the company. I feel by being honest with myself I gained some true confidence, and I trust myself to say what’s appropriate at each given moment.
“Honesty is often very hard. The truth is often painful. But the freedom it can bring is worth the trying.” - Fred Rogers
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
Honesty was mentioned by approximately 15% of the participants in this project. Honesty was brought up as often in terms of self-honesty as it was in relation to honesty with other people.
Participants noted that more honesty in one’s life reduced complexity, increased clarity, authenticity, self-awareness and understanding, and helped people to forge better relationships with themselves and others in life.
The obstacles to honesty ranged from not wanting to hurt other people’s feelings, fear of rejection, convenience, to discomfort or embarrassment around their own behaviour.
“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” - Mark Twain
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on the weekly theme
Shortly after I met my wife on my travels, she asked me why I was sporadically scratching down tally marks while in the company of others.
I told her that I was keeping count of any lies that I told, anything from an embellishment, an excuse for being late, dishonesty around intentions, to protecting myself from discomfort.
It was a short experiment, the point of which was not to judge or punish myself, just to gauge where I was at in terms of honesty with myself and others.
I don’t think it’s controversial to say we all lie in some shape or form. While it’s inevitable moments will arise in which we will, “bend the truth”, if we can at least be aware of this, it limits potential self-deception.
We are all perfectly imperfect human beings trying to do our best. To acknowledge this and attempt to do better is a great exercise in developing self-acceptance, confidence and trust, both in yourself and from others.
“When we’re not honest, we are cut off from a significant resource of ourselves, a vital dimension that is necessary for unity and wholeness” - Clark Moustakas
4. This week’s questions for personal reflection
Each week I pose questions to support your own inquiry into what a good life is for you
Can you think of any moments, big or small, that you weren’t fully honest in the last week? In hindsight, what do you think got in the way?
Think of a time that you weren’t fully congruent with yourself or others about how you felt. If you had been able to put this sense of discomfort into words, what would you have liked to say? What might have been the outcome?
That’s all for this week. I’d greatly appreciate you sharing this newsletter with your friends. I’d also really like to receive any feedback with suggestions for what you would like to see from these weekly updates. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email and LinkedIn.
I’m a coach, based in Berlin (via Dublin, Ireland). I formerly had a 15-year career in Capital Markets, and for better or worse, I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to make a discovery around human thought / behaviour.