The Higher Ground Check List

Published: February 1, 2012

By Jim Lichtman
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In my book, What Do You Stand For?, former U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Assistant Secretary of Defense Dick Capen puts forth his own code which he calls his “Higher Ground Check List.”

I asked my New Hampshire students to compose their own higher ground check list. Here’s a composite:

– First, forgive yourself; you can’t start with too much baggage.

– Be honest. If you buy a shirt from the store, don’t return it after you’ve already worn it.

– There is always room for improvement.

– Hard work and determination are essential for accomplishing goals.

– Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

– Take a stand for what you believe in and do what you think you have to do.

– Distinguish the difference between needs and wants.

– Do not hold grudges against others. Forgive and move on. If we stay in a cycle of anger, we become the ones who are wrong.

– Do not gossip. It will eventually come around to the person and hurt them.

– Don’t take advantage of other people. This not only hurts the other person, but it hurts you as well.

– Always strive for better.

– Never give up on people.* (Give up on boyfriends who don’t pick up after themselves after 2 years!)

– Do things without being asked. Vacuum your grandmother’s house without being asked, make dinner for your parents, clean the bathroom with a smile on your face.

– Don’t give into peer pressure. Make your own decisions, regardless of what your friends are doing.

– Be self-controlled. Drive the speed limit – the EXACT speed limit, not 5 over. Life is not moving so fast that you have to break the law to keep up with it. Everything you’re rushing towards will still be there in five minutes.

– Be patient. There will be more than just a few times in your lifetime that your patience will be pushed. By keeping a cool head, people will appreciate you.

– Learn from your mistakes. People will respect you if you own up to your mistakes and learn from them.

– Do not separate your business life from personal life from political life. They are all your life.

– Learn to defend your good name. It’s worth fighting for.

– Play through the fear.

– Find quality, caring people to emulate.

– Be open-minded. This will make you a much better and more rounded person.

– Be optimistic. Waking up with a good mood will set the tone for the rest of the day.

– Be honest. Honesty creates respect.

– Be reliable. If you commit to doing something, stick with it until its completion. Be the kind of person that your friends would want to babysit their kids.

– Be aware. Your actions and the actions of others really do matter.

– Talk less, say more. Have meaning behind what you say.

–  Be proactive. Don’t wait for others to make the change. Step up to the plate and change it.

– Be tough but fair.

– When you make a promise, keep it.

– Be confident. People usually aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are. Even if they are thinking about you, it’s usually not as negative as you think.

– Believe others, but verify, if needed.

– Ask for clarification when in doubt.

– Don’t be shallow. Think deeply. So many people just live their lives for the temporal. Take time to ruminate.

– Listen to what people say and to what they don’t say. Be discerning.

– Enjoy silence. Life is so loud and busy that we usually fail to see the beauty in it.

– Be of value to yourself and others.

– Get over yourself. Constantly look for ways that you can serve others.

– Humility is an art. Learn it. Practice it. Stick with it, even when you’re not feeling particularly artistic.

– Get involved in something that is bigger than you.

– Use compliments, but don’t overdo it, or lie. If you see a friend or a stranger with a nice haircut, cute boots, or sweater you really like, tell them. Don’t compliment them just to get a compliment back.

– Stay true to who you are.

– Just do it! No one else will.

– Be willing to try. Don’t be afraid of failure. You’re definitely going to fail if you don’t try.

– Be steadfast. Stick-to-itiveness is often what gets you through a hard situation.

– Lead by example.

– Try to avoid situations where wrong could be done, and if you do find yourself in that situation, make the best decision you can.

– Remember that some things are not for sale: my dignity, my family, my friendship and my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee.



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