To be or not to be

Hamlet, deciding whether to be or not to be

At the core of our ability to use change to become stronger is the ability to take decisions when the outcomes are unknown. Key to doing that is a powerful idea that runs invisibly through almost every aspect of our culture.

This is the hidden pattern gave Shakespeare’s Hamlet his most famous line, “To be, or not to be.” This is what shapes the defining mantra of the world’s most powerful nation: “You can become anything you want to.” And this is what is hidden in the universal structure of the Hero’s Journey, that runs through almost every spellbinding, bestselling story ever told: from Casablanca to Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Breaking Bad. This is the idea that we might one day grow to fulfil our destiny, our identity.

Who we think we are determines the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the cars we drive (or don’t). It shapes the careers we choose, the way we vote, and the people who become our friends, lovers, and life-partners. It sits behind every action that we take: whether we follow the well-worn path or the road less travelled.

And in a time of change, this small but powerful idea is relevant for three significant reasons.

The first is that a time of change brings us challenges. It forces us to make decisions we’d rather not make, at times we’d rather not make them.

The second is that — approached in the right way — each decision can also become an opportunity for us to get clearer on what matters most to us and who we most want to become.

And the third is that the better we know who we are — the clearer we have become on who we are willing to be, and not to be — the easier it becomes to make these choices, and the more inspired we will feel each morning to get up and do what needs to be done.

In a time of change, deepening our self-knowledge is a powerful method — both for defining what success looks like for us and for achieving it.

This is the fourth step to becoming antifragile.

When faced with significant changes, how easy do you find it to choose what actions to take? Would you like to become faster and clearer?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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