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It’s that time of year again—the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day when many people take time off to visit with family and friends. In my small family, celebration always includes food, and lots of it! I love deserts, so for Christmas week I made my grandmother’s gingerbread cookies, pumpkin pie, and a lemon cake. All for four people!

New Year’s Resolutions
Our family celebrations also include prayers of gratitude for what we have, and of hope for those less fortunate. Those prayers cause me to reflect back on the year at hand, assessing the good and the not-so-good, and to look ahead in anticipation of a new year to come. This is where the dreaded topic of “new year’s resolutions” arises. There’s a lot of pressure to come up with resolutions on how we can make a fresh start and improve ourselves. It sounds noble. So, people make lists of things to give up, and things to do better. But the sad fact is, most people who make new year’s resolutions don’t keep them. And to me, that is more disappointing than not making resolutions at all!

A Truly Noble Cause
Instead of making a list that’s unlikely to survive, as each new year approaches I make just one resolution: I resolve to be worthy. Where did that come from and what does it mean? When I was serving as superintendent at the US Coast Guard Academy, I was struck anew with the power of the Mission Statement, the same statement I’d recited as a cadet over 30 years earlier. It affirms that cadets must be “strong in the resolve to be worthy of the traditions of commissioned officers in the United States Coast Guard in the service of their country and humanity.” Now that’s a noble cause! That commanding mission statement motivated me to do and be my very best.

In the context of a new year’s resolution, the resolve to be worthy is a powerful leadership tool, both for self-development, and for leading others. It demonstrates commitment to a purpose bigger than oneself. To me, it places the focus on giving, not taking, and of doing more than the minimum required. That means individuals should always be at their very best, both in the workplace and at home. And it means organizations should be at their very best in fostering workplaces where everyone is valued and appreciated. And yes, being worthy often means putting another’s interest, or the greater good, ahead of one’s own desires.

A Powerful Message
This past Veterans Day, someone sent me the text of a prayer Eleanor Roosevelt was purported to have carried in her wallet until the day she died:

“Dear Lord, lest I continue in my complacent ways, help me to remember that somewhere someone died for me today. And if there be war, help me to remember to ask, “Am I worth dying for?”  

Am I worth dying for? Are you worth dying for? I believe as members of a civil society, we owe it to ourselves and each other to resolve to be worthy; yes, to be worth dying for. Why? Because our military members, law enforcement officers, first responders, and many others get up every day and don’t just go to work; they put their lives on the line for all of us. If you’re looking for a compelling way to make a fresh start and live a life with purpose in 2023, I encourage you to join me in resolving to be worthy.

Look in the mirror. What resolutions will you make to become a better person, and a better leader, in 2023

Please join me again next time for more on Leading with Character.

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