By Troy Headrick
It’s funny the things that inspire me, that trigger an idea that then turns into a piece of writing or a work of art.
A couple of days ago, I saw a series of photographs of Donald Trump, America’s pathetic president, playing golf about the same time the nation was expecting its 100,000th death due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That got me thinking about priorities and how we signal, in verbal and nonverbal ways, to ourselves and to those who are paying attention to our behavior, who we are and what we value.
The things we do, the ways we spend our time, the things that occupy our minds say a lot about us. They define who we are. They make us an open book that anyone can read. We need to remember that if we want to be a certain type of person, we must do things that such a person would do and think the kind of thoughts such a person would think.
For example, if I want to be a kind person—if I see myself as kind and want others to see me that way too—then I can’t spend my time committing acts of cruelty, nor can I hold lots of sadistic thoughts in my head. If I commit acts of cruelty and think unkind thoughts, I become the sum of my actions and thoughts. In other words, one is defined by how one acts and on what one thinks.
America’s disingenuous occupant of the White House sees himself as being a great decision-maker and very intelligent—he has even referred to himself as a “very stable genius”—but he makes catastrophically bad choices and acts dumb a lot. Just because he fancies himself a certain kind of person does not make him that sort. His actions define him. The reason he is laughed at and despised is because his claims of being judicious and wise aren’t borne out by what we see him doing. When there is an incongruence between a person’s self-concept and his or her behavior, the individual is seen to be disingenuous or delusional. Moreover, the things that occupy our minds will manifest themselves in lots of different ways that become apparent to observers. Our thoughts influence our actions and our actions make us who we are.
I see that I started this by saying that I wanted to deal with priorities and prioritization, but then I started talking more about actions in general and less about which actions and thoughts take precedence in our lives.
We are all busy. This means we have only so much we can do, and we all know this. Thus, the things we habitually do first and spend most of our time on play a disproportion role in shaping who we are. If I see myself as an artist, then I will do lots of art and the doing of art will occupy my mind. (Of course, the world might intervene and not provide me with time to do art.) If such a thing happens, I will grow frustrated, but by hook or by crook, I will find a way to do the thing that provides me with meaning even if I have to sleep less so that I can fit it in.
If I call myself an artist but never do art, people will laugh at me or call me dishonest or misguided. I would be living a lie and everyone would know it. Eventually, if I continue not doing art, my skill in that area will wholly atrophy. There are lots of things I can longer do that I once could. Those skills and interests I’ve lost no longer have significance or play any role in my life. In other words, I am not the same person I used to be. I have changed. Change is simply the word we use to mean moving from one state of being to another.
This means we have a lot of control over who we are. To be a certain kind of person, one must simply start doing things that make us that way. The more we prioritize actions and thoughts that create and reinforce our self-image, the more integrity and coherence we will have and the happier we will be.
I look forward to your comments.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.