Forge Course Day 2: Defining Your Values, Purpose, and Vision
Crafting the life you want to lead has to start from within
Today, we’re talking about values, purpose, and vision. You’ll walk away with a clear understanding of your trifecta foundation, which will guide you through the rest of your week and ultimately define what you want to be known for. Imagine being the kind of person who is seen as a go-to guide, who gets recognized and appreciated not only for your talents, skills, and abilities, but also for your ideas, advice, and point of view. Your trifecta foundation will help you be that person.
Let’s break down the three components.
Values don’t exist in a vacuum. You need context so you can apply your purpose to live a fulfilling life and leave this world better than when you entered it.
Here’s the reality: We’re reckoning with a pandemic, an economic downturn, and systemic racism. As a result, we’re immersed in a climate of fear, which has morphed our values and reordered our priorities. According to a recent Edelman study, we’re more focused than ever on spending time with our family, making smart purchasing decisions, and helping others. After the seismic reset of the past year, we’re protecting that which is closest to home: our health, jobs, and families.
From a business perspective, this means consumers will buy from brands that align with their values. As employees and business owners, we cultivate empathy and trust by defining, stating, and embodying our values in everything we do, whether we’re full-time employees or own a small business.
Your values aren’t just a slide deck or words you post on a website — they’re imbued in your everyday actions. Specifically, values are:
- What you stand for and how you behave.
- The ideals that connect deeply at your core.
- Hardwired into your character and affect everything you do, including how you do your job, choosing the products you sell and the employees you hire or work with, and cultivating and managing your most valued relationships.
Your values define and guide the work you do, how you do it, for whom you do it, and why you do it. Consider your values the foundation upon which your life and work are built. Without this foundation, you’ll fall through the floor straight to Hades, and nobody wants that life.
When you define and embody your values through action, it creates consistency, which breeds legitimacy, which cultivates trust. Trust elevates your purpose and strengthens your livelihood over the long haul.
Before you activate your purpose at work, first you have to identify it. Your purpose is your “why” or your reason for being. This goes beyond the work you do every day. It goes deeper than money in your bank account. It’s your calling, codified. It’s how you serve your customers, community, peers, family, friends, and loved ones. You uncover your purpose by leaning into your values.
Even if you believe you’ve outgrown your role, hate your job, or end your day screaming into the nearest pillow, don’t let your discomfort guide your path. Because without knowing your purpose, you’re more likely to jump into another job with the same problems. Your “why” keeps you focused and helps you evaluate roles and opportunities to determine if they’re speaking to your core.
Your “why” should be clear, actionable, and impactful. Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle framework is a powerful evocation of one’s purpose. He writes, “When you know your WHY, you gain clarity and direction to find the work, relationships and organizations in which you feel most fulfilled.”
Try defining your purpose in a simple sentence:
I seek to ____________ (your contribution) so that ___________ (impact).
Imagine if you started your pitch or cover letter with your why. It would make for a captivating opening and immediately position you as someone with passion and integrity. People would know what you stand for, and they’d respect you for it.
Now connect your values and purpose to define your vision for what you want out of work and life.
Your vision is an expression of both your values and the future you strive for. It’s the mark you want to make. Vision isn’t about the products you sell or the dream job you covet. It’s the change in the world you seek to create. It’s what your customers, co-workers, peers, and friends say about the work you do.
You might be wondering what is the point of all this. While defining your values, purpose, and vision feels so far from putting food on the table, the work you’re meant to do and the life you want to lead have to start from within.
When you’re dealing with stressed-out co-workers, angry clients, and family members clamoring for every last bit of your energy and attention, your purpose is what fuels and sustains you. It reminds you why it’s important to show up every day and do the work, even if you’re struggling. It provides clarity and calm, because you know every day is a step closer to living a life with meaning.
Remember, you’re in it for the marathon, not the sprint.
Spend time with the worksheets below. Then return to this post for some extra inspiration and a list of resources to help you dig deeper.
Root your business in your core values
Not living your values can affect not only your performance but also your health. Years ago, I worked for someone who lacked integrity. This person routinely lied to clients and overcharged them for services we weren’t capable of fulfilling. As a senior employee, I was responsible for the care and feeding of those lies.
A few years in, I suffered from severe anxiety and burnout. I’ve always believed that operating from a place of transparency and honesty can resolve any problem and reconcile every relationship, because you’ve gained someone’s trust. No matter how much money I made, I couldn’t work for someone whose values were antithetical to mine.
After I resigned, I built a consultancy, and the first thing I did before designing my service suite or positioning statement was define my values. Trust, honesty, transparency, integrity, collaboration, and kindness became my guiding principles and, as a result, helped me to make back the income I’d been earning and then some. But more importantly, I felt decent. I could stand by my work because it was rooted deep in my value and belief system.
- Read: Simon Sinek’s Start With Why and Find Your Why. Sinek’s website also hosts free videos, blog posts, and talks on leading with purpose. Shannon Polson’s Forge article “A 3-Part Exercise to Reconnect With Your Values.” MyPlan’s comprehensive values assessment test.
- Listen: Patrice Washington’s Redefining Wealth podcast focuses on chasing purpose instead of cash and prioritizing abundance over scarcity.
- Learn: MindTools offers a comprehensive tutorial on value definition and embodiment.