Practice Makes More Perfect: being the best ‘you’ every day
By Alison Whybrow and Alan Williams
In my coaching sessions in early January, it seems pertinent to ask “What are your bold plans for the next 12 months?”. “Building on the success of 2013, what is the shift you would like to see this year?”. Working with this theme of bold changes and challenge, what could be more challenging than aiming to be the best version of you consistently and sustainably with all the benefits that brings? Becoming the best version of you requires a focus on purpose, core values, and relentless attention to daily practices.
“It ain’t what you do (but the way that you do it).”
The Fun Boy Three and Bananarama (1982)
As a coach, a focus on ‘being’ or ‘becoming,’ rather ‘doing,’ moves the development conversation from one of getting better and smarter at how quickly you can run on the hamster wheel, to a fundamental review of the impact you want to have in the world, and how you can serve that purpose. This shift is the same whether you’re talking at an organisational level or to an individual leader.
As human beings, we long to make meaning of our existence, creating stories and reasons for events without a second thought. Having a purpose in life – the sense of making a contribution in some way – is one of the factors that leads to happiness and contentment, which in turn leads to improved health, life expectancy, recovery from setbacks and more. A meaningful purpose helps people to tap deep wells of energy and resource.
To find your purpose, start at the end of your time line. What do you want to be remembered for? What are the footprints that you want to see that you have left behind you? What is the reputation you want to have?
Core values, those traits or qualities that represent deeply held beliefs provide a framework, the guiding principles, the handrails that guide you towards your purpose, as you navigate ambiguous, fast changing context of life today. Core values reflect what’s important to us and what motivates us. Understanding our core values helps understand ourselves. Putting core values into practice, aligning our behaviour with core values, where we are doing things because we really want to do them, we are more likely to feel and be inspired, engaged and experience mastery. Kouzes and Posner note that individuals who are clear about their personal values are up to 17% more engaged than colleagues without that clarity.
To know that we are adding value, that our actions and choices are worthy and worthwhile, is a basic human need. And, you can do this for yourself. Purposeful practice is the primary contributing factor (above natural talent) to excellence in sport and life.
Once you’ve articulated your core values, it’s relatively simple to put these into action by clarifying what these would look like in practice.
Through a process of refining, you end up with 31 Practices, one Practice a day, aligned with your core values. The focus and attention paid to the practice, and learning from that practice, is fundamental. This simplicity of focusing on one aspect of how you are being each day builds powerful habits with repetition.
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is”
What are you going to be doing to support your clients to be the best they can be this year? How are you going to be working with core values?
The 31 Practices
The 31 Practices approach is about putting values into practice every day, for individuals and for organisations. In organisations, every employee in the organisation from the CEO to the security guard, to admin and facilities management is focused on the same practice on the same day of each month – creating a powerful alignment. Putting values into practice in organisations has been shown to enhance engagement, performance and customer satisfaction. For individuals it can reduce stress, release greater energy and resourcefulness whilst increasing motivation, happiness and well-being.
- Deborah D. Danner, David A. Snowdon, and Wallace V. Friesen (2001). Positive emotions in early life and longevity: Findings from the nun study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 80, 804-13.
- Mike Munro Turner. Coaching on Purpose (accessed 18th Jan 2014)
About the authors
Alan Williams and Dr Alison Whybrow are the co-authors of The 31 Practices: Release the Power of your Organizational VALUES every day.
www.my31Practices.com is a web application that supports people to create their own 31 Practices framework and to live their core values every day