Here is a famous meditation from Marcus Aurelius:
“When you first rise in the morning tell yourself: I will encounter busybodies, ingrates, egomaniacs, liars, the jealous and cranks. They are all stricken with these afflictions because they don’t know the difference between good and evil. Because I have understood the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, I know that these wrong-doers are still akin to me… and that none can do me harm, or implicate me in ugliness – nor can I be angry at my relatives or hate them. For we are made for cooperation.”
– Meditations, 2.1
The first part of this meditation is most often quoted. Students of stoic philosophy use it to prepare themselves for the usual daily frustrations. Why get upset at someone cutting us off in traffic when we can easily expect it will happen? When it does happen, we can just say: “Of course.” For the E&C professional, we can just as easily prepare ourselves for those in our organization who will cheat, steal and lie.
The second part of the quote is most often neglected – or omitted entirely. The call for cooperation reminds us that our duty is not to disregard the wrongdoers but to respond with kindness. It would be too easy to assume that a wrongdoer cannot change. But haven’t we all been wrongdoers at some point? The ethical leader understands the growth mindset and believes that we all have the ability to become better. This belief, in turn, creates a responsibility.
Today, each day, let us assume this responsibility of making our workplaces more ethical.