This I Believe

June 25, 2009 Leave a comment

In the 1950s journalist Edward R. Murrow hosted a radio program called This I Believe, in which he invited people from all walks of life to share their personal philosophies. Fifty years later, Dan Gediman revived the show on National Public Radio with the goal of “encouraging people to begin the . . . difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.” The result has been a growing movement of communities and schools jumping at the opportunity to invite citizens and students to articulate their core beliefs and values, and to align their lives accordingly. For a taste (actually a glimpse and/or listen), check out this link.

In the second published book of collected personal philosophies, This I Believe II. Gedimen includes an invitation to and guidelines for those who care to try their hand at articulating what they fundamentally believe, stating that the “transformative” benefits are not always readily apparent until doing so. I find his guidance for essay writing to be particularly helpful, touching on ways that we (or perhaps I should say “I”) might more powerfully express myself and connect with others in the process:

Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events of your life. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work, and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does.

Be brief: Your statement should be between 350 and 500 words. The shorter length forces you to focus on the belief that is central to your life.

Be affirmative: Say what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid preaching or editorializing.

Be personal: Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. Read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.

Seems to me that these are great guidelines for our work helping groups and organizations discover and express their core identity, define their higher purpose, and collectively live out their values. And you?

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  • Gibran says:

    What a great post Curtis, and how prescient, specially as we find a voice here at the IISC blog. I resonate deeply with each of the four points and I find it very challenging to stick to them. Academic training gets on the way on one side, political experience gets on the way in the other, but finding the sweet spot will be essential if we want to facilitate the process of making meaning together – and isn’t that what collaboration is all about?

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