If you're like me, there are moments at work when it is hard to see your purpose clearly. Especially in moments of change and uncertainty, it is easy to feel unmoored and forget why you're doing what you do.
Here is a simple exercise to remind you of what matters in times of uncertainty.
It is called the Heroes Exercise. It's my favorite exercise from my book, Design the Life You Love. In fact for many people it's the big reveal as it provides them with a big "AHA!" about themselves.
It's a simple exercise that will take you about 10 minutes.
Here's what you need to do:
1. Get a piece of paper or open your notebook.
2. Think of your work heroes--the people who inspire you professionally. These are not superheroes but simply people who have qualities that interest you or that you want to emulate. You might know your heroes (a mentor, colleague, family member, friend), you might know of them (Elon Musk of SpaceX, Jacqueline Novogratz of Acumen, Reshma Saujani of Girls Who Code) or you might admire who they were (Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Cleopatra).
3. Write down their names, draw a small icon for them (round glasses for Jobs, a sweater for Novogratz after her book, The Blue Sweater), and list as many of their qualities as you can think of. You can have one, three or six heroes. Some people have more.
Here are designer Michael Robinson's icons for his heroes.
4. Once you've listed your heroes and their qualities, take a look at the qualities you wrote. These are your values. The qualities that inspire us in others are actually our own values, those we have and/or aspire to have. We notice these qualities because they're "value-able" to us.
5. Now, cross out the names of your heroes and put your own name down! We are the hero of our own work and life, and our values are our super powers. So, I am serious, cross off your heroes' names and put your own name down.
Our values are the foundation for the work (and life) we love. If we know our values we can decide what we want, what we need to change and what we want to leave out. We can create our very own roadmap.
When Marshall Goldsmith, world's #1 leadership coach and author, took my workshop he listed his teachers as his heroes: Frances Hesselbein, Former Girl Scout CEO, Peter Drucker, Father of Modern Management, Paul Hersey, creator of Situational Leadership Model, and Buddha. For him, they all shared a common quality--they taught him everything they knew without expecting anything in return. The Heroes Exercise inspired Goldsmith to start his feed forward 100 Coaches program which counts Mark Thompson, NYTimes Bestselling Author, Alex Osterwalder, creator of Business Canvas Model, Whitney Johnson, author of Disruptive Self, Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40, and me, to name a few, as part of its 1st 25 cohorts.
So next time you're in the midst of change or uncertainty about work (responding to a difficult colleague, changing jobs, taking on a tough assignment, saying no to something), or in your life (entering a new relationship, moving to a new city, having teenagers, becoming empty-nesters) take your heroes exercise out and reread your values.
Your values are the foundation of your work and life. They remind you of what matters. Use them to design the work and life you love.
Who are your heroes? I would love to hear from you.
Design the work and life you love!