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How our mindset and actions affect those around us

Leadership expert and psychologist, Dr. Henry Cloud, describes human reputation, and how we perceive it, as the wake behind a sailboat. He paints a picture of this beautiful metaphor in his book “Integrity,” explaining how we sail through life, leaving a wake of both accomplishment and relationships behind our rudder.

Upon finishing this book, I reflected on my life to try and understand what was being left in my wake. That reflection led to a both comforting and uneasy realization about the impact my habits and behavior have on others. It led to tangible steps towards improving the wake I was leaving in both my personal and professional life. One specific example is that it helped me realize that I need to work on consciously giving credit and actively listening to the people around me to ensure they feel valued and heard.

For an exercise in self-awareness, I ask that you pause and ponder what’s in your wake. Is it a series of objective “wins” and healthy relationships or missed opportunities and broken bridges? My guess is that, like mine, it has some of both. This wake, after honest observation can leave us feeling pride, regret, and maybe even dissatisfaction.

Like a ship leaving a rippling wake in its trail, our lives are filled with personal choices that compound as we continue our journey. If this exercise leaves you yearning for change in some aspect of your life, start with small steps. Perhaps it’s adding some accountability to minor tasks at work, so you don’t have to shuffle every week when it’s time to give a status update. Perhaps it’s building a habit of asking for service employees’ names then thanking them as you meet their eyes.

In any of life’s arenas, taking small steps like these will compound into a massive shift in your wake. We’re all leaving a wake. The small actions we take daily have profound impacts on our community, mindset, and even our bodies. It serves as a trail of where our strengths and shortcomings come from, but also a reminder of how easy it is for us to change course. What’s in your wake?

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