People talk about “becoming” and “being” your best.

What is someone’s “best?” Seriously, what is your “best?” It’s incredibly difficult to get your arms around it, partly because it’s a moving target that is influenced by dynamically moving components: your current skill, your world-view and the environmental conditions.

After spending time with so many world-leading performers – many are uncommonly relentless toward pursuing their “best.” And — there’s a more stable component that keeps emerging – many have a very clear sense of the principles that guide them. Those principles are at the foundation of “being” and “becoming” their best. And — one of the most significant measures of “best” is not just the metric of winning, but rather the deeper acknowledgement that they gave everything they had — and — stayed true to their guiding principles (aka, their personal philosophy).

Before we talk about “being your best” — Do you have a personal philosophy?

If so, what is it?

Can you succinctly say it in under 25 words?

In the modern world, philosophy — the pursuit of wisdom or the study of knowledge – can seem antiquated or even academic. As philosophy has moved over the centuries from the market square to the ivory tower, it is often viewed as a distant discipline that doesn’t have much to do with our lives. That couldn’t be further from the truth — and we don’t have to look further than world-class performers and leaders for evidence of how vital and alive philosophy is. We have found that almost across the board the best in the world operate from a clear and finely tuned personal philosophy.

A personal philosophy is a word or phrase that consists of the principles that influences your thoughts, words and actions.

We all have a personal philosophy. It doesn’t sit outside of you. It lives inside of you, waiting to be expressed, waiting to be revealed. You might not consciously know what it is, or you might only know parts, but it’s there. Your philosophy impacts your thoughts, tendencies and behaviors and plays an active role in your daily life. It may be the fundamental force that shapes how you experience life. You just need to uncover it. Your philosophy is revealed by the choices you make and the actions you take.

Your personal philosophy serves as a compass to align your thoughts, words, and actions. It expresses your basic beliefs and values. Your personal philosophy guides every decision you make, influences the friends you choose, the love you find, the purchases you make, jobs you inhabit, where you live in the world, the way you feel about yourself, and the possibilities you hold for yourself.

The adventure of mastery of self, through mastery of craft, is not well traveled. Independent of where you are on that journey, one of the more powerful practices is to begin to answer the hard questions: Who am I? What am I about? And what is my purpose?

A way to start this process could be writing down the answers to some of these questions:

  • Who are people that you look up to and what do they stand for?
  • What are your favorite quotes?
  • What are your favorite words?

Once you have filled a piece of paper with these answers, start circling 20-25 of the words that really stand out to you. Go back over that list and start crossing out words that don’t line up exactly with who you are. Can you start to formulate a phrase or sentence with the words that are left? Once you have a first draft, share it with a loved one and ask for feedback. Once you’ve nailed it down on paper, commit it to memory.

There’s no one path toward high performance; toward living a life full of deep meaning. We are each responsible to carve our own unique path. Your path is uncharted. It’s up to you. There’s no one in this world quite like you, there’s no one that knows what’s right for you. There’s no one that can show you, your way. You must earn the courage to explore the uncharted, unfolding, unknown future.

Once you’ve done this work or if you’ve already done this work, leave your philosophy in the comment section. What if we all were able to share our personal philosophies and then be able to live in alignment with our authentic selves? That would be pretty epic!

Keep carving your unique path.

 

Dr. Michael Gervais is best known for his work as a high performance and sport psychologist in rugged, extreme and high-stakes environments.
He is co-founder of Compete To Create with Pete Carroll, the Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He also is the founder and host of the Finding Mastery Podcast and is the co-creator of USC's Peak Performance Institute.