12/20/2013 11:33 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2014

Life's Compromises

The great compromises we make in our lives are not, like the movies often portray, centered around huge and vexing life decisions. There is no tearing out of hair, desperately trying to figure out what to do, as if a grand existential dilemma is unfolding all around. No, the great compromises in your life usually come when you're too busy to pay attention. You didn't even notice you were rude. You didn't realize it became a habit to avoid, to play small, to keep your ideas to yourself, to talk too much about yourself, to gossip, to delay, to ridicule, to be late, to forget the thank you's and the I love you's. You compromised away integrity not because of big tough decisions but because of little throwaway acts that you didn't realize were solidifying into a character that was, likely, beneath you. Sure, there may have been a handful of big compromises in life, but those are the easy ones to spot, the easy to avoid next time, the easy excuses. The tougher work is in noticing, each day, whom we are becoming by our real acts not just our hopeful intentions, to tease out the moments when we act like idiots and charlatans and bullies and babies, to see it and rise above it, to decide to live a different kind of life, more centered and aware, more loving and true and kind and bold. "I didn't fritter away my character," we shall say, "I forged it, purposefully, joyously, lovingly, day by day, moment by moment. I was here," we shall say, "and I lived by choice not chance, by design not distraction, on fire not off-handed." So let us release the old tales and excuses, and let us go forth and build our ideal selves. Day. By. Day.