Updated: Aug 28, 2020
We all love to strive for success in one way or another. However, most of us differ in what success actually means to us personally. Some reach for more external rewards, while others enjoy the process of doing something they love. I would argue that most of us are not very clear on what success means. We go about our lives not fully aware of what it is we want and thus are stuck in a constant state of agitation because our paths are not laid out in front of us. Unfortunately, life does not come with a manual. A truly fulfilling life is filled with tackling challenging questions, and at the forefront of these questions is “who am I?”.
Understanding oneself is at the core of reaching mastery in any craft. Without fully grasping who you are both as an individual and as a performer you will never have a clear enough vision for what goals you want to achieve. Self-awareness is fundamental to setting a clear objective because it is the values that shape and guide the goal setting process.
For example, if one of your values are about giving back to others and forming relationships, then every decision, every goal you set for yourself should be made with this in mind. Without understanding what those values are first, we risk setting goals that are not organically ours, and we tend to lose track of them over time. So before we go about setting any goals it is imperative that we are clear on what our personal philosophy is.
Having a concrete mission and philosophy is at the core of any journey of self-actualization. Think of it as a pyramid, where we need to start building on a solid platform before adding on any more layers. Your journey can be represented by the picture below.
Once the foundation is set, we can slowly add on our macro and micro level goals (Learn more about goal setting here). So how do we go about creating a personal philosophy that can help guide our life? This is quite challenging work as it requires digging deep and being really introspective. Begin by asking the question: "Who am I, and what do I value most?"
Don’t try to hard to answer the question, but rather see what emerges naturally. It’s pretty tough right?
If you’re like most of us, you will find it difficult to come up with an answer. It seems like a question we should know the answer to, but can’t quite find the words to describe how we feel. To help this process, start with weeding out a few core words or themes that seem to represent you. This can come from your favourite quotes or words that have guided your life thus far. These will be your “power values”. You can start by writing down 20-30 words or themes that really speak to you. Here are some examples:
You may even choose a few from the list if that helps you. Once you've done that, see if you can select the top 3-5 words that cut to the core of who you are, and what you value most. Once you’ve done this, you may even sharpen it into a phrase in your own vocabulary that is unique to you.
The next step is where it gets tricky. Are you able to write out your personal philosophy in 25 words or less? Using the values you have chosen, bring them to life in a concrete purpose statement that represents what they mean to you in an actionable way. Some values may stick out more than others, and that is fine. Be curious and just start with whatever comes to mind. You might not get it on the first try! Here are some examples:
“To find creative ways in which to help others understand and overcome their barriers in the pursuit of flow and self-actualization”
“To help inspire and be a positive presence for those around me, and continue to learn and grow as a leader”
“My purpose is to follow my passion. Success means doing what I love for a living”
Now memorize it. Put it somewhere visible. You want this to be ingrained into your mind so that it will guide every decision and every goal you make from here on out.
Now here comes the kicker. Can you sharpen this down into 5 words? 3 words? 1 word? What does it all come down to for you? Love? Purpose? Determination? If someone asks you to write down your purpose on the back of a business card, would you be able to do it? Answering these two priming statements may help get you started:
It all comes down to...
If our philosophy is super clear, then nothing can get in the way of our success. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t figure it out just yet, creating a philosophy is a life long journey that requires patience, constant revision, and a commitment to mastery. Once you are clear on who you are and what you value, your performance goals will be a lot more tangible and concrete because they come from a more intrinsic form of motivation.
Ready to do the work? Learn more about how you can create a personal philosophy, alongside many other mental skills in my new Mental Training Foundations course.