7 Essential Qualities for a Strong Personal Foundation
In my last article “Authentic Business Leadership,” I described the 7 qualities that are vital for a leader in the business world. Now we will take a look at the 7 qualities that create a strong personal foundation. Developing a strong personal foundation is key as the strength of your foundation will determine what can be built on top of it.
We learn so much about foundations from the iconic structure of The Eiffel Tower. It was built in just twenty-two months however, Almost half of that time was spent below ground working on the foundation. The quality and longevity of the tower depend on the strength of the foundation. So too, the quality of your life and leadership depend on the strength of your foundation.
TWO MYTHS THAT UNDERMINE OUR FOUNDATION
Let's take a look at two common myths that exist in our culture that can undermine the strength of your personal foundation.
Myth 1: Work/Life Separation
When we think about the structure of the Eiffel Tower it’s easy to realize that it couldn’t exist without the foundation. Yet, somehow we have bought into this myth that we are supposed to keep our “personal self” (our foundation) separate from our “work self.”
While it is true that learning to have healthy boundaries is vital, it’s impossible to separate the human and all her experiences from the human that goes to work every day.
Instead, let’s take a more inclusive approach that integrates all areas of our lives. The areas of growth we focus on in our personal lives also strengthen one professionally and vice versa. Coaching takes a holistic meaning it views each individual as a whole person, not parts that are playing different roles.
Myth 2: Worth comes from doing
The second myth goes to the source of where we derive our value. Western, capitalist-based cultures have unintentionally left many individuals believing that their value is equal to the size of their paycheck and how much they are “doing.”
Deriving our value by our quantity of doing has created a society where we are so busy “doing” that life has become a series of appointments and obligations. Busy is glorified and those who can fit the most obligations, tasks, and appointments in the least amount of time win the recognition.
However, this way of living leaves one feeling empty, unfulfilled, and like a shadow of the person they suspect they truly are.
If you have bought into these myths you are not alone. At least ninety percent of those who I coach have also fallen into this trap.
The 7 Authentic Qualities for a Strong Personal Foundation
1. Key Quality of Personal Foundation: Internally Driven
There is one key quality that is vital for a strong foundation: being internally driven. An individual who is internally driven is clear on their personal values and connected to their intuitive guidance system. They make decisions in alignment with those values and they have a deep trust in their intuition and understand how to use it to guide their choices. Personal values are distinct from collective values. Collective values are those values that influence us from our families, friends, religions, cultures, and workplaces. Collective values act as external influences while personal values act as a compass.
Being internally driven leads to increased self-trust, emotional intelligence, resilience, and self-awareness.
Everything else stacks on top of having a firm internally driven framework.
Let’s take a look at the six key qualities that stack on top of Values.
2. Authenticity - Taking responsibility
How much do your actions match what you are doing, thinking, and experiencing internally? A person who is extremely authentic honors their emotions, values their unique perspective and takes responsibility for themselves. Authentic people take ownership of their thoughts and behaviors, and their actions are congruent with them.
As you go through the day today ask yourself: where am I staying silent? Silence often indicates an area of life that isn’t fully authentic. It could be something as simple as you’ve never really liked the house you live in or it could be as complex as you are in a marriage, job, and life that don’t match you anymore. Taking action to bring all areas of your life into authenticity is vital for a strong personal foundation.
3. Role-modeling Choices that Create Happiness
How much do you follow the advice that you give to others? Action is a much louder teacher than words. Individuals with strong personal foundations realize that their actions speak far louder than their hopes and words.
A mother tolerating an unhealthy marriage relationship because she chooses to “stay for the kids” has to realize that she is role modeling to her kids that it's okay to tolerate unhealthy relationships.
Having a strong personal foundation means we consistently make choices that support our health and happiness. We understand that those around us learn by what they see more than what we say. An action either strengthens or invalidates words.
3. Resolve the past
Ignoring past unresolved issues in our lives is like treating cancer with a band-aid. We know that cancer left untreated will eventually cause a deterioration in the physical body. Just like emotional wounds left untreated lead to symptoms including anger, procrastination, avoidance, perfectionism, and high expectations of self and others.
Most of the behavior issues that cause challenges in relationships and the workplace are symptoms of deeper issues. I once coached an individual in her 60s who was a chronic procrastinator. She had done every tip and trick recommended through self-development programs with little lasting results. Instead of trying to manage the symptoms of procrastination, we dove deep to the root which was an unresolved issue from the past.
When you resolve the past changes become permanent.
People who have strong self-confidence understand their values, trust their ability to make good decisions for themselves and prioritize their own beliefs and experiences as a primary source of learning.
In my book Confidence Unchained! I share five key experiences that diminish confidence. One of those key eroders of self-confidence comes when we prioritize everyone else’s happiness above our own. It’s impossible to make decisions that please everyone. Therefore a key ingredient of self-confidence is making decisions in alignment with our happiness and respecting those around us as being capable of dealing with any emotions they have about our choices.
5. Flexible Curious Growth Mindset
A person who demonstrates curiosity and flexibility is open to new information and perspectives that add meaning and understanding to their own experiences and perspectives. They are not attached to their perspective, belief, or opinions as being the “only right way.” This mindset supports one adapting and pivoting with greater ease when changes small or large emerge.
This perspective also extends equal respect to those around us whether that’s our family, community members, or team members. Respect for another person, beliefs, experiences, thoughts, and opinions. Having a flexible, curious, growth mindset also facilitates collaboration that allows us to draw on all the resources in the room and co-create.
6. Conflict-Free Communication Skillset
Quality communication is vital to every part of our existence. Conflict-free communication is a type of communication where one can say everything they need to say to anyone, with complete respect for everyone. This skill allows one to work through a framework that takes care of their own emotions before engaging in an open, judgment-free conversation that leads to agreed-upon outcomes.
This skill set works for having those important conversations with a spouse, holding an employee accountable, to being able to state the obvious that everyone is avoiding in a conversation. I’ve created a powerful 4-step framework for conflict-free communication that is adaptable for any conversation or situation.
As you reflect on the seven qualities that create a strong personal foundation, take a moment to check in with yourself. Rate yourself on these qualities on a scale from 1 (never) to 10 (always). What do you notice? In the days ahead is there one or two actions you could take that would shift those numbers by a point or two?
Would you like to develop a regular practice of self-reflection on your personal foundation? Take action today by signing up for our next quarterly leadership check-in. In the group quarterly check-in, you will have space to reflect on your last 90 days and adjust what you would like to focus on in your next 90 days.