Inner Worth

It was one of the shortest obituaries to appear in the paper in more than a year.  In fact, the obituary only contained minimal information.  At the conclusion of the obituary was the following:  “At the deceased’s request, there will be no viewing, funeral service, memorial, celebration of life, or like events.”

Those who knew the deceased weren’t surprised.  Over the years, he had refused public recognition of all types.  “I’m not a ceremony person,” he was fond of saying.  Those he taught wanted to establish a fund in his name.  He refused.  When he announced to his last class of freshmen students that he would no longer teach the class, there were audible gasps.  When the 200 students left the room, they all shook his hand.  Many hugged him.  Eyes were red from tears.  To him, these heartfelt expressions meant much more than any type of recognition.  When he retired, his email was flooded with very touching remembrances of how he had helped his former students at a time of need.  Again, these were much more important to him than ceremonial recognition.

Understanding and trusting your inner worth has almost disappeared.  Organizations are prone to create recognition programs to motivate their employees.  The result has bred a generation of “praise junkies.”  People have come to believe that they need public praise as a reward for doing what they are paid to do.  They have lost their sense of their self-worth.

It’s hard to recall any transformational leader who relied upon public praise as a motivator.  In fact, many of our greatest leaders experienced considerable scorn for their ideas and initiatives.  They had an internal sense that what they were doing was right.  When you bemoan the lack of leadership in our society, maybe it’s due to our inability to assess our own value to society and to forego the need for public praise.

How do we establish inner worth as a motivator as opposed to praise?  How do we change academic appraisals and job evaluations to being more self-directed?  How can we teach the joy of knowing you have done a job to the best of your ability?

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                “Outside show is a poor substitute for inner worth”  – Aesop

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