I grew up in a large Italian family. In an effort to help each of the 6 kids in the family find their way successfully in life, my dad managed our house with lots of rules.
We had rules for homework, chores and how to treat people. We had rules about sharing, behaving and speaking to adults. We had rules about being productive, focused and intentional in our actions.
Regardless of the sound motivation, I didn’t completely appreciate the rules – all except for one. One of my Dad’s rules effectively guided each of my 5 siblings more than any of the others. It was so wise that it finds its way into all of my work as coach, educator and speaker.
Dad’s best rule was this: when you come down the stairs in the morning, pay attention to the things in front of you. Be intentional in stopping and noticing everything around you – the people, the things, the events – everything. Then, based on whatever you noticed, ask yourself , “What can I do to make this better?” And then we were told to pause long enough to consider something to do and – here’s the important part – go do it.
I saw how proud he was as he watched each of us make a concerted effort to be more present to our world and take ownership for improving the parts of the world we touched. That, of course, helped each of us start to discover, develop and live our abilities, passions and values. It helped us learn how to be accountable and responsive, to take responsibility for our place in the world with a commitment to always make it better. Though I never learned why this became one of his rules, I do remember him actively living it the way he trained and expected us to do the same.
My dad passed a few years ago, but my siblings and I continue this “rule” more than any of the others. In the middle of today’s challenging times, we all still get out of bed each morning, look around and ask, “What could I do to make this better?” And then we try to do it. Some days are more successful than others, but each day starts with the right motivation.
It has become part of who my siblings and I are, and now as a coach, educator and parent, it serves as my motivation to teach others to stop, notice then consider ways to make things better.