There’s a saying, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. This is too rosy-eyed for me and I’d rather say:

“Do what you love and be prepared to be challenged” 

It’s far more real, putting it like this excites and galvanises me. I feel myself getting ready for a battle of sorts. Because at times, it is a battle. Living your purpose and values takes courage.

Working as a team with the same North Star and shared motivations for problem solving is the ideal. What I see too often is a gap (sometimes a whole time zone) between what a company, a leader, a person says and what they do.

This usually happens when the dollars are tight, someone has a reputation at stake or feelings are being hurt and next thing you know, they put the needs of others before their own values.

It’s at this pointy end where choosing your purpose and values really counts: you have to take some risks, sometimes do what’s counter-intuitive, or even stick your neck out and be a lone voice exposed to criticism. 

The work to solve this is two-fold. Firstly defining compelling and authentic values before you set out on your mission, and then doing them when times get tough. 

When you have gone beyond the generic words “Safety” and “Respect”, you connect to values with real meaning: you can see what actions and what conversations you need to have ahead of you, you get excited by these values – your motivation fires up. 

Now you need to stress test your values:

  1. What are the worst case scenarios you could face?
  2. Will each of your values withstand these scenarios? 
  3. What are the best ways you can demonstrate your values in these situations?

If some of your values fall short, go back and redefine them. Find those values that really count for you, those that will stand in the fire.

The goal is to have consistency between what you say and what you do: to build what can never be bought nor sold, authenticity and trust.

Adding these steps before you get into your strategic work and actions will give you that much needed fuel i.e. courage, when stakes are high. You’ll be rewarded with grounding confidence and resilience to keep improving.

Set yourself a goal that you’ll take one of these actions within the next 7 days:

  • Define your purpose and values, 
  • Push your values to their full meaning, get past the generic words, or
  • Do a stress test of your purpose and values and then redefine them if needed, embrace your progress and next evolution.

For more actionable tips for designing and living your values see my next blog post, “Doing what’s right over what’s easy”.

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