You are the Sum of Your Actions

I have often wondered in amazement at how unaware some people are of themselves. I have listened to criminals and murderers in interviews who think they are good people with just a “problem.” I watch people who often treat their friends poorly and are always looking out for themselves, who feel like they are good people, who occasionally have “bad days.”

I see people at work being self-destructive in their careers. I see them shocked when they’re written-up, not promoted, or fired.  I’m shocked that they’re shocked. Almost everyone thinks they’re good people, with just some “issues.”

It dawned on me that who you are has nothing to do with how you feel about yourself.  It has nothing to do with who you could be. In the end, we are all nothing more than the sum of our actions. Our good actions make us better people; bad actions make us worse.

So if you work hard all the time, you are a hard worker. Slack a bit when you should be working, and you’re not a hard worker. Slack a little more, and you’re lazy. Be nice all the time, and you’re a nice person. Be mean some of the time, and you’re not a nice person. Be mean more often, and you’re a jerk.

Ultimately, decide who you want to be and then have your actions reflect that as often as possible.  Life is that simple. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” 

Another impactful saying, attributed to Frank Outlaw: “Watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

I believe, in the end, you are nothing more, or less, than the sum of all your actions.