Know Thyself: Beliefs and Values

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Behind every decision you make is a value, and behind every value is a belief.

As a leader, understanding how beliefs and values work will help you:
  1. Recognize what drives you
  2. Discover a compelling vision for your life
  3. Understand the people you lead and how they interact with each other



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Great leaders are passionate about what they do.

I like to spend time helping my clients discover what they are passionate about so that they can create a compelling vision for the future that they will be excited to achieve. Harnessing your passions ensures that as a leader you will have the drive to keep pushing forward even when things get difficult and that you will have enough charisma to inspire your employees to follow you [click to tweet].




As this pyramid illustrates, your life experiences (such as the environment you grew up in) and your personal characteristics (such as your genetics) shape your beliefs. In turn, your beliefs help to determine what you value, and your values will inform what you’re passionate about. Finally, at the top of the pyramid is your vision or life purpose. Unfortunately, most of us neglect to define our beliefs and values and therefore have difficult time shaping a compelling vision for our lives.
As an illustration of how our experiences influence our beliefs, values, and passions imagine growing up during the Great Depression. The experience of living through dire economic conditions would probably cause you to believe that the future is uncertain and threatening. Eventually you could come to value thrift. You might even become passionate about finding ways to reduce risk in your life and business.
So, as with any good structure, we start by building the base first.
Start by thinking about the role nature and nurture have played in your life and work your way up the pyramid using the following sets of questions:

How have you been shaped by genetics and your environment?

  • Are you a more concrete or abstract thinker?
  • How were you raised? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like?
  • Where were you raised? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like?
  • What did people that you grew up with value?
  • What do people around you value now?


Next, try to determine what you truly believe.

  • What do you believe about the world?
  • What do you believe about people?
  • What do you believe about the origin of the universe?
  • What would you consider to be a life well lived?
  • Who are you as a human accountable to?


Thirdly, can you determine your values?

  • How do you measure success?
  • What will you sacrifice the most for?
  • What’s more important to you: the end result or how you get there?
  • Think of a couple of people that you really respect. What do you like about them?


And finally, what are you passionate about?

  • What are you doing when you lose track of time?
  • What inspires you?
  • What was the most fulfilling task you’ve ever completed?


So let’s consider how a hypothetical owner of an office furniture manufacturing company might have answered these questions.




Based on the pyramid above, which of the two options below will probably make the more compelling life goal/vision for this individual?
  1. I want my company to have 2% of the domestic office chair market by 2015.
  2. I want my company to receive a design and quality award for one of our products by 2015.
To me, Option 2 seems to be a better fit. We can see that this individual is more concerned about quality and craftsmanship than simply with the amount of product that goes out the door. Also, notice that the abstract idea “gaining of market share” would not appeal to him or her as much as being recognized for something that his or her organization built and designed.

Our past does not have to determine our future, but it will influence it.

The good news is that by understanding what has shaped us we can take more control of where we want to go and who we want to be in the future [click to tweet]. Your vision/life purpose should be closely connected to what you’re passionate about and in alignment with who you are as a person. If your vision/life purpose fulfills both those requirements, you will be able to pursue it with unshakable conviction.

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