I’ve noticed organizations and institutions spend a lot of time telling young people the “don’ts”, we spend very little time telling them the “do’s”, or who we want them to be. The rules are important, everyone needs boundaries, but if we don’t give our young people some positive vision of the kind of people we want them to become then we’re setting the bar very low. Aspiration to become a person of character is more important than rules, because the reason the rules exist in the first place is to inspire people to reach goals and achieve.
Over the years leading young adults and teens both in the military and out, I developed “The Five Be’s” as a way to communicate who I wanted them to be. The Five Be’s are my vision for what a grounded, healthy adult looks like. It’s my hope young people will be inspired to “be all they can be” and live integrated lives of consequence and character.
1. Be Proud Of Who You Are.
Each person has something about them that makes them special. A person’s path through life and the sum of their experiences, good or bad, make them who they are. Everyone has something to contribute.
2. Be Free.
Never be a slave to your own passions or appetites, and the same goes for others. Being truly free doesn’t mean “anything goes,” it means being able to choose what’s good for you. There is a difference between “freedom” and “license”; being free means being able to know right from wrong, and freely choose right over wrong.
3. Be Virtuous.
The view of virtue we accept in 21st Century America has a long history in the West, beginning with the ancient Greek philosophers and tracing its path through Western civilization. These Cardinal Virtues remain a part of our conversation today because they work: healthy and successful people often display these qualities.
There are four Classical “Cardinal” or principal virtues:
Prudence – making the right decisions
Justice – doing what’s right
Restraint – taking/doing only enough and not overdoing it
Fortitude – enduring trials
4. Be Balanced.
Keeping all aspects of life in the proper perspective is a great pathway to success. A healthy work ethic in balance with home life and personal development is a great recipe for a successful person. What’s more, people with their life in balance have the ability to “sprint” when the need arises.
5. Be Courageous.
Unless you’re a emergency responder or military servicemember then it’s not likely most people will need to demonstrate physical courage. However, most of us are called to demonstrate moral courage regularly. Do we sign out on the report or do the inventory? Admit our mistake or cover it up? Confront inappropriate behavior or turn or heads? Developing courage when it’s necessary is important for a leader and at every stage in life.