The Critical Question

What am I to that? The that, being any decision, circumstance, or ethical conundrum, significant or mundane, being placed before me at any given moment. The thing demanding my vote, that I signal via statement or action its endorsement or rejection. I ask myself this question a lot these days.

The question serves me, as it forces a pause and reflection. It allows me the opportunity to step beyond the emotions of the situation, the excitement, the mental fatigue, or the fear, and look toward the future. It grounds me and allows me to contemplate how the decision might impact my self-image, as well as my standing with those I care about and lead. The question reduces the complexity amid the chaos to a single decision point: What am I to that?

The answer to this question is encapsulated within every decision we make as human beings. Cumulatively, these answers reveal who we are, what we value, our strength of character, and our moral compass. The byproduct of these decisions is what defines how we are perceived by others and forms our reputation.

This is not new. Throughout human history it has been the accumulated answers to this most personal of questions that expose and express the core of an individual’s character and their integrity. Moreover, by extension, it is the cumulative response to this question that amasses to create and shape a society’s culture, values, and ethics. The fact is, what we become as individuals, and what we form as a society, is nothing more than the sum of the decisions we make individually and as a collective.

We don’t tend to think of the impact of our daily decisions, or their aggregate effect, in such dramatic and consequential terms. This is because until recently, most of us have had the good fortune to live during relatively stable times. Accordingly, the decisions confronting us may have had a major impact on our individual lives, but it is unlikely they had an impact on the future of society. That has changed.

This is because periods of seismic change open chasms of possibility that, over time, become occupied by the choices we make and the ideas we endorse. Unfortunately, these tectonic shifts also create feelings of instability and trepidation, shaking our confidence and scattering our imagination in all directions. They send us in search of stability, causing some to look backward seeking comfort in the embrace of the past. Uncertainty is fear’s aphrodisiac. It paralyzes those that lack courage, grit, and an adventurous spirit. This is why, today, many in positions of authority appear impotent to the challenge before them, and therefore lack the fortitude necessary to lead. This is also the reason common sense appears increasingly uncommon.

We have a unique opportunity to deeply embed our fingerprints on a better future. However, it will not happen without concentrated effort and the audacity to choose with intent of purpose. We must begin to give more thought to the memes we share than the clothes we wear. To look past clickbait headlines and the emotions of the moment, and peer into the core motivation for our actions. We must recognize that the pursuit of ideas and dreams over the comfort of conformity is a courageous act. What that future will look like will depend on the choices we make, the actions we take, and our personal resolve. What kind of future would you like to create? The choice is yours!

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Rick Thomas