Who are you? Many of us struggle to answer that simple question. The immediate response most give is to describe their job. “I’m an accountant,” “I work in the sales division of my company,” “I am a coach.” But that’s not the question. What we do is not who we are and it’s normal for people to get the two confused.
It takes time and commitment to do the deep work of really knowing who we are.
To become someone others believe in and in order to live with integrity, you must know the deeply held beliefs that drive you. What are the values, ideals and standards that make up the essence of who you are inside? When these things become clear, you will have the courage to live them.
Performance Driven vs. Principle Driven
A person who is performance driven is focused on results. It’s all about what they do and what they accomplish. How well they do on a task speaks to them about their value. For example, If I excel on a project (or for kids, if I excel at sports, school, music etc.), then everyone loves me and I get all kinds of positive attention. If I fail, or don’t do well, then it seems like others don’t value me as much. The internal message is that I am only as good as how I perform. People only care about me when I’m a winner so I become addicted to activity.
People in this category typically complain that their lives are out of balance, they don’t have time for anything and they are burned out. Their relationships are shallow and fractured. There is little margin for personal reflection and spiritual awareness and they cope by withdrawing or staying excessively busy and distracted. I know this type of person well because this is my propensity and it’s exactly where I found myself a few years ago. It was miserable.
I learned to value myself by results and performance as a child. Many of the messages we’ve come to believe get handed down to us from our childhood. Whether our caretakers knew it or not, they taught us how to value ourselves and those internal messages took deep root.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~ Plato
The truth is that we are all driven by results on some level. But how results affect a person who is centered on their principles (who I am) is much different. Results are simply what they do, it doesn’t define who they are.
When you are principle centered you have a deep sense of gratitude about your life and your gifts. Therefore you steward those gifts in the best way you can and you see them through your values (which you can learn more about here.) They shape you they don’t define you. Who you are is more important than what you do.
These people still have high standards but not at the expense of relationships or personal burn out. They live a life of balance because they have done the hard work of understanding where their value truly comes from. They have clear boundaries and they make decisions based on their own internal vision and values.
How Do I Learn to Be Principle Centered?
I’ll give you a practical application that will help you begin to walk down this road. This can help you make huge shifts and your life will be more rewarding as you learn that “being you” is more than enough. It’s a practice called, “Reflective Action (RA).” RA is about being (1) Present in the now (2) Values Driven (3) Reflective of how daily goals and activities align with what’s most important in our lives.
Present in the Now
This is about learning to control what you can in the present and being free from worry. In the now, you release fear and anxiety about the future because the future isn’t here. Your focus is on what you can control in front of you and the ‘vital few’ tasks and goals that get you closer to your vision.
Your goals and actions must align with your values. This is your baseline and what you always return to. For example, if one of my values is family, am I making decisions to spend quality time with my spouse, children or extended family? Am I spending time with them enjoying things together that are important to them and to me? Is the job I have helping me to live my values when I get home or am I overworked, distracted and angry in the evenings and distant on the weekends? You learn how to transition out of fear and into purpose by focusing on the things that matter most to you and making the decisions that get you closer to your values.
The most common way to integrate the present, personal values, and reflection is by keeping a daily journal. It may sound old fashioned or too simple but it is true. This helps to develop discipline to be ‘here and now,’ and it also provides a concrete way for you to see and document the process of keeping your life connected to the most important things.
RA is not about recording events. It is about carefully examining who we are and how that matches what we are doing and making sure that our actions are getting us closer to our vision and goals. You take the time in RA to see how you are closing the gaps between who you say you want to be (your ideal self and your ideal life) and who you really are.
I cannot encourage you enough to do two things: (1) pursue your ‘highest calling,’ your ‘ideal self’ that comes from “Who You Are,” “Being vs. Doing.” Do so with every ounce of strength you can muster. Get the ‘being’ right and the ‘doing’ falls into place and you will live with incredible fulfillment and contentment.
(2) This is a journey not a destination. It takes time and commitment. You need to gain knowledge in these areas, you need a mastermind group, a coach, a mentor, a plan. Spend money on developing yourself! It is worth the personal investment and you will reap a huge return on the effort you put in.