You see, you and I are different. In fact there’s no-one quite like you. You are unique. And you have a unique contribution to make. Isn’t this well, quite exciting?
Strange to say, most of us put more effort into fitting in that to celebrating our uniqueness. As an English boy living and schooling in Scotland I aspired to fit in and feared exclusion. But as we tend to bring on what we focus on, I got excluded anyway! I looked life fair game and I was fair game. However, at some point, I slightly gave up fitting in. In ski-ing terms, I went off-piste, convinced that the group seldom knew best.
It turned out that this was a blessing. If I couldn’t trust the group, I would have to find my own way. And I think, at some point, we all do, or rather, we are prompted to do so. For no-one else can make you find your own way. And the word “way” can mean a path or a method, or a “way of being” you.
Once the act of trying to fit in dominates our lives it can be hard to find ourselves. A few questions may help us on this life-changing quest. To start with: In what do you believe? That might sound like a big question, but we have to get around to the big questions sooner or later, so how’s about now? I don’t want the “right answer”, some things you’re supposed to believe in, I want your real answers. Those that make you go “Yes!” And if you were to list five-ten of them, would you know why each of them is important to you? This may be familiar territory – cool; or unfamiliar – even better, time to explore.
What have your values got to do with your professional life? Everything: if you profess respect for other human beings but behave as tho you don’t, we have a problem. To “walk your talk” you have to know what your talk is. And this is an art, not a science, a matter of choice, not of duty.
Values are a great entry point, and so is purpose. For example, if you have a purpose as the leader of your team – or as a team member – what is it? What comes to your mind, can you capture it now? Try completing this sentence: “The team leader I want to be is …” Same question for your family life, your social life, your life as a whole, if you want it to be a whole. Within your overall responsibilities, you get to decide how you are going to lead your life; unless you don’t. Don’t worry about other people trying to stop you: they are too busy trying not to think about their own lives. You can set goals that fit with your purpose and values, you can lead a life that reflects your purpose and values, and progressively life becomes aligned. Authenticity turns out to be easier than pretence.
We recently ran a workshop at a distinguished university and a young student was astonished to realise that she could get to choose her purpose and her values for her life. Nobody had told her. OK, go on, be yourself: there’s more of you to express.