Almost seven years ago, I had a life-changing experience in the least expected place… on a webinar. At the end of a program titled “Identify your strengths,” the facilitator (Doug Waltman of the Kansas City Leadership Institute) gave us an assignment to write our personal credo. I still have the handouts from that program, on which Doug defined a personal credo as “a statement of who we are and the difference we desire to make in the world."
Although Doug didn’t originate the concept of a personal credo, I had never really heard of it before. On that September day, it hit me powerfully. After several weeks of personal exploration, in November 2010, I settled on my credo. Here it is:
I, Christin Myers, use my positivity, individualization, and communication skills to inspire others to recognize the potential within themselves so they make choices that enable them to lead purposeful and satisfying lives.
That single sentence has guided me ever since.
It led me to get even more involved in Toastmasters and write speeches with the intent to inspire. It led me to look for a new position where I could impact more people. It led me to start my own side business. And a website. And now a blog. And it led to me showing up fully in hundreds of individual conversations, working hard to help others see they have choices.
And with any luck, it will lead to me inspiring you today to start working on your personal credo. I learned from Doug there is no right or wrong format to use; some might write several paragraphs or pages, whereas others will identify one or two sentences, like me. Using the format he suggested was really valuable to me, so it might help you too:
I, ________________, use my
(Assets: nouns, tangible and intangible, e.g., knowledge, sense of humor)
(Verbs: deploy the assets listed, e.g., inspire, guide)
(Define a better world)
If you're not sure what your strengths are, consider these options on how to find out:
Take the Strengthsfinder 2.0 assessment. This is how I learned about my positivity and individualization strengths (activator, competition, and strategic round out my top 5). It's also where I learned that it makes more sense to focus on our strengths than our weaknesses.
Keep a small notebook (or a notes section in your phone) in which you record what makes you feel strong and what makes you feel weak. I learned this approach in Marcus Buckingham's terrific book The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success and it helped me identify how much joy I get from helping others solve problems.
Take the free VIA Survey on character strengths. That survey revealed how important sense of humor is to me, and I've been playing to that strength ever since.
Ask the people around you what they see as your strengths. Partners, family members, co-workers, and friends can offer unique insight into strengths you didn't know you had. I was surprised and pleased to hear that many people in my life think I'm a good listener.
I find some people are very clear about what impact they want to have on the world, whereas others haven't given it much thought. If you need some ideas to get you started here, check out the goal-setting exercise on my website. The questions can help you better understand what's really important to you.
Writing a personal credo takes time and introspection. Enjoy the process! It might just change your life.