Study their biographies carefully and you will see their Philosophy of Engagement in action—a governing ethos that develops through time.
This type of document has been called many things: one’s creed, ethos, Decalogue, constitution, maxim, tonic, rules of civility, virtues, personal code, or what I like to describe as a “Philosophy of Engagement” or POE.
A POE is derived from our life lessons that inform our future experiences and performances. Beliefs, principles, attitudes, perspectives, qualities, virtues, rules, standards and other factors reveal a governing values framework—one that directs personal excellence every day.
In his essay on Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson discussed the difference between religion and ethics. He surmised that religion and ethics were the practice of ideas. The former coming forth from one’s God and the later coming forth from man.
There is a difference in the process of how we orchestrate our lives to serve a higher being or power (religion) and how we seek to engage the practical day-to-day world on a personal basis (ethos or ethics). Taken together both religion and ethics influence our daily thoughts, feelings, and actions—ultimately becoming our virtues and character. In this regard religion and philosophy are seamless partners in promoting personal excellence.
Your Philosophy of Engagement (POE) is derived primarily from your past experiences, where important life lessons have been learned, internalized, and expressed through daily actions.
If your mission, vision and legacy statements define with greater clarity “what” you seek (with three perspectives in mind: future, present, and past), defining your POE represents the operating software. It is a document that governs and guides, giving you greater clarity and direction for acting intently and consistently through every Moment of Performance (MOP).
From Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Virtues to Helen Keller’s personal essay on faith, a vital part of any performer/leader is getting in touch with his/her POE.
Like the great men and women of history, you too can more intently define and live by your POE. It needs only to be dusted off, polished and used with renewed energy and commitment.
Building your POE is about extracting from your life those experiences and lessons that have been instrumental in your learning—from both success and failure. While I contend that everyone—whether implicitly or explicitly—already has a POE, few have brought it to light or lived it to its full capacity.
Your POE is a living and breathing document. It changes as you change, learns as you learn—through time and experience. The older and more experienced you are, the greater number of experiences and personal wisdom you have to draw from.
Each year I take top executives, professionals, and other seekers of high performance, to Peru for an 8-day outer and inner journey (a shortened 3-day version “A Call to Adventure” program is also available). In either format the mountains provide the backdrop for deep discussions and story telling to help each participant uncover their POE’s. While you too are invited to join us on these adventures (our next will take place from June 18-26, 2017), I’d like to share with you the framework from which you can begin building your POE today. Let’s review the elements briefly:
Beliefs & Principles (knowing)
First and foremost are the principles and beliefs you have found to be most valuable throughout your life’s experiences. A very powerful declaration of beliefs comes from Abraham Lincoln who was a great seeker of truth. Read also the philosophy of John D. Rockefeller and begin thinking of the core beliefs & principles that influence you.
Attitudes & Perspectives (seeing)
Next is what I call “ways of seeing” through the lens of attitudes and perspectives. An attitude is a way of thinking that produces higher or lower energy. It directs our internal climate, which dictates how we internally react to the external environment and influences those around us.
We all recognize attitude. It is one of the most important skills in our self-regulation repertoire. From positive attitude to negative attitude, engaged attitude to passive attitude, the variety is endless, yet each reflects an internal climate that we create.
Consider the creed of Promise International and begin thinking about the attitudes and perspectives that have helped you with your internal climate.
Qualities & Virtues (being)
Many POE’s depict the importance of cultivating qualities and virtues. A quality is a positive (or negative) aspect of self. Of course, there are many personal qualities to practice or emulate: friendly, outgoing, inclusive, selfless, tough-minded, loving, trusting, patient, humble, charitable etc.
In close proximity to, but possibly elevated ever so slightly above qualities, are virtues. Virtues differ from qualities in that they take the moral high ground and are linked to ethical rules and principles. They provide a bar or standard that elevates one’s existence or “becoming-ness”. These may include honesty, integrity, resiliency, empathy and honorable, etc.….
Taken together, qualities and virtues represent the essence of a person’s “who-ness” and helps define him or her as an evolving being.
Benjamin Franklin, one of my heroes, was dedicated to personal excellence. In his Autobiography he identified 13 virtues that were to be practiced weekly, then rotated and recycled until mastered. History reveals that he achieved excellence in many of these virtues, even though he struggled from time to time with a few of them. See Franklin’s 13 Virtues for your review and to help you identify the qualities & virtues that you would most like to develop.
Rules & Standards (doing)
The last two categories are what I like to call rules and standards. Rules are simply our do’s and don’ts. We’ve learned them, we live them, and sometimes we break them. Experienced people, especially those who excel in life, have certain rules by which they live. These rules place boundaries around behaviors and channel their focus in order for them to achieve valuable goals.
In his “Last Lecture” Randy Paush, a notable professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, suggested that it was important to leave behind certain lessons, experiences, and ideas that would impact one’s family or friends. Before passing away on September 18, 2008, Dr. Pauch offered his rules list to those closest to him. Read the philosophy of Dr. Pauch and begin thinking of the rules & standards that most influence you.
Directly related to the rules we make are the standards we set. Standards are behavioral commitments in reference to an inner or outer metric. These represent specific actions that you will or won’t take, given a particular situation.
By considering and building these lists, you will now have some building blocks for creating your own POE.
To translate these lists into something meaningful at the end of our 8-day and 3 day journeys, our leadership adventure clients write poems, songs, creeds, and letters to their children, etc.… whatever they find to be the most valuable way to express their innermost values. I challenge you to do the same.
Carve out some time this week and complete the “Building Your Philosophy of Engagement” exercise. Refine these lists then start getting creative. I guarantee that the amount of time you spend (and continue to spend) creating and refining this document will be one if not the most important documents that you will create for yourself, your family and your friends. It is not only a document you should keep with you (physically or digitally) and review often, it should be the first attachment of your last will and testament—as this will be the greatest gift (and legacy) you can leave behind to your family and friends.
I hope you enjoy the process…
Building Your Philosophy of Engagement:
First, create the following lists:
- Top 5 Beliefs & Principles
- Top 5 Attitudes & Perspectives
- Top 5 Qualities & Virtues
- Top 5 Rules & Standards
Second, write a 1-2 page document summarizing your Philosophy of Engagement using these building blocks. Now, consider the following formats:
Play with this exercise and make it your own. There is no right or wrong way to do it.
If you would like to join us this year and build your Philosophy of Engagement while seeing the best of Peru and Machu Picchu, the details are here.