Defined by 'what you do', or by 'who you are'?
I've been a movie fan for most of my life. One movie trilogy that hugely impressed me beyond all others was the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy.
This trilogy stands as one of the best set of superhero films ever made. When Batman Begins first came out; I didn't go see it at the cinemas as I figured the story wouldn't be anything particularly new or great. How wrong I was.
At one point in the Batman Begins movie, a few words were spoken by Bruce Wayne's longtime girl friend Rachel Dawes as she witnessed Bruce leaving a somewhat degenerate dip in a hotel fountain pool (Bruce's attempts at taking pressure off any investigation into his 'down' time and therefore leading people away from his alter identify as Batman). He immediately replied to Rachel that underneath his 'bimbo façade' he still cared about all the important things of life.
In turn, she replied with a cutting comeback. "It's what you do that defines you Bruce!"
There is a great comeback later on in the same movie however as Bruce is about to dive off of a building to catch the bad guys he whispers in Rachel's ear, "It's what you do that defines you."
Suddenly she understood that Batman was actually Bruce Wayne, and Bruce Wayne had grown to personally define himself by the heroic things that Batman had 'done'.
Two movies later in the Dark Knight rises, Batman had beaten the Joker (in The Dark Knight), he'd overcome his physical afflictions, his personal rejections, the death of his beloved Rachel Dawes and his inspiration, Harvey Dent.
Bruce undergoes many tests of his strength and commitment, such as when Wayne Enterprises goes broke due to possible investment fraud. His friend and caretaker Alfred argues with him about his desire to face his new enemy, Bane.
Alfred doesn't feel that Bruce was ready to fight him, and leaves Wayne Manor opposed to watching him die. Even so, Bruce has allies in Lucius Fox and Commissioner Gordon, as well as John Blake. Fox suggests that Bruce speak to Miranda Tate, a friend of the company, and show her the fusion reactor they were developing.
Without going too much deeper into the in's and out's of the story, it was his butler Alfred, who prior to leaving the Wayne Manor after a conflict of interests with Bruce, suggested something quite contradictory to what Rachel had initially claimed in the Batman Begins movie.
Rachel said, "It's what you do that defines you Bruce!"
However Alfred said, "It is not what we do that defines who we are. What defines us is how well we rise up again after falling."
And so The Dark Knight went on to Rise.
The 'doing' equation
An equation will always demonstrate how two things are equal. It will have an equals sign '=' like this: 7 + 2 = 10 − 1 and shows the process of equating one thing with another.
That equation says: what is on the left (7 + 2) is equal to what is on the right (10 − 1), so an equation is like a statement of truth, which shows how 'this equals that.'
In a similar way to mathematics, there's a cultural equation that a great many people live their lives by which attributes towards a common cultural way of living. It goes something like this:
What I do + how well I do what I do = who I am.
Living life in this way by this equation demands that we consistently strive to become good enough, and feel good enough as we compare ourselves to others.
I have a confession to make. I made a new years resolution last year (like I do most years) which was to do more exercise and start working towards achieving a similar degree of fitness as what I had in my younger years. I have failed miserably.
Why do we make resolutions like this? Why do we make resolutions at all? If you think about it, the act of making a resolution is sort of a confession that you have failed this last year. I have failed to eat healthy this last year and so I will do so this next year. I have failed to exercise so I'll do better this year.
Making resolutions is the act of planning to become a better version of you. Through your hard work, you can lose weight. Through your hard work, you can get that promotion or find that job. Through your hard work, you can finally kick that bad habit. At the core of resolutions is this single idea, 'I can make myself better and become a better version of me'.
Becoming a better version of you is a great goal but an extremely challenging one if the means by which you do this is by making improvements in the things that you do.
Today, I offer you a new equation to live your life by. It demands practice, patience and time to become effective at, however once understood and practically outworked, it will not just transform how you feel on a daily basis, but will enhance your relationships, further advance your professional life and reap you more fulfilling rewards and benefits than what any amount of money or up market gym membership could ever possibly buy you.
It goes something like this:
Who you are + how you are who you are = what you do
Living by this equation allows you to live more congruently, more confidently and more authentically as you base the decisions and choices about your future upon who you actually are, without the inner need to feel 'good enough', or without exhausting yourself through unnecessarily striving to be better than others.
So just practise being you. Although practise never makes perfect, it will make you permanently better at just being yourself!
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Karen Hayns MSc - Future PerfectSeptember 11th, 2017