As leadership mentors, we talk frequently to our clients about vision, values and purpose. We believe that success and fulfilment rest on identifying and living them out, putting them at the heart of everything we do. Not just at work, but in all aspects of our lives. Our vision, values and purpose act as a north star, guiding us through every decision, every problem, every innovation, every opportunity. But how do we find and identify them? How do we drill down inside ourselves and name the three values that run through us like words in a stick of rock? Why three? Because three enables us to recognise the different facets of our own individuality while also being easy to remember. Put simply, four is too many and two is too few.

Rather than give you a set of complicated instructions, here’s the story of how I did it.

A year or so ago, we were on a family car journey and something was said and done that really got my blood boiling. I remember the feeling of outrage so clearly even today. However, since the journey wouldn’t have been improved by me retaliating, I managed to contain myself and not do anything about it, aside from recognising the feeling. Then the same thing happened a couple of days later and again I had another extreme reaction. This time I shook with anger, such was the visceral nature of my response. It was clear to me that one of my core values was being transgressed.  But which one?

I began to look deep inside myself to find answers. I ran through my three values: freedom, authenticity and trust. Which of these had been undermined during those conversations? In truth, none of them had. So what was the problem?

I continued to mull things over and, after a few days of no enlightenment, I decided to go for a long run. Setting off on a 10+ miler, I turned the problem over in my mind again and again. What had been said and done that so upset me and why? Eventually I concluded that the fundamental issue was a lack of respect. Not just a disrespect for me, but for other people, of their feelings.

This left me with another problem. Where could respect fit into my existing values of freedom, authenticity and trust? I still held those three very dear and wasn’t ready to surrender one of them, yet respect clearly had to be on the list.

I continued to run and think.

I decided that freedom and trust were so intertwined (you can’t have freedom without trust) that respect could replace freedom, which would be implied within trust. Feeling much more content, I then needed to sense-check my purpose to ensure it still aligned.

At the time, my purpose was based on that of iTS Leadership. Our stated aim was to help our clients to grow profit and smiles. A worthy and true objective which we were indeed fulfilling. However, was this just the result of our purpose rather than the purpose itself?  I needed to identify the WHY not the WHAT.

I continued to run and think.

I cast my mind back over the previous couple of years, trying to pinpoint when I’d felt really amazing about what I’d achieved, when I’d been euphoric about what I do. And then it dawned on me. The moments that I thrive on are when I’ve inspired other people to do great things, to help them be the best version of themselves. When I’ve had a part in them achieving true happiness. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they’re trying to do, but inspiring others to greatness is what lights my fire.

And why is this so important to me? Because I believe that every person deserves fulfilment. This is my purpose.

The beauty of having refined and redefined my values, vision and purpose is the enormous power they give me. Whenever I lose my way a bit, get bogged down in a problem or feel negative about something, I just come back to my values, vision and purpose.

Then everything becomes an opportunity to make a difference and do something wonderful. The stress of writing a presentation to deliver to a room full of delegates is transformed into the chance to inspire dozens of people to greatness. A problem is no longer a problem when it can be reshaped into an idea which will help others shine.

You don’t have to have an argument or run a half-marathon to identify your values and find your purpose, but I hope I’ve inspired you to go through the process in whatever way is required for you.

Here are three tips to help you get started:

  1. Think about what really matters to you. What triggers an emotional reaction in you and why?
  2. Aim to identify three values. They don’t have to be linked to each other, aside from by their importance to you.
  3. Look back over your life and work. When have you experienced pure elation and what was happening in that moment? How can you recreate that every day?

The process may not be easy and could take time, but you’ll know when you’ve got to the right conclusion. And then I promise you that everything will flow from that.

For more help on finding your purpose, consult these other blogs:

Good luck and please get in touch if I can help.

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