What Do You Stand For?

by Pam Fox Rollin, Executive Coach

Connect with Pam: @PamFR+PamFoxRollin

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This post originally appeared January 12, 2001.

What Do You Stand For?

In This Post:
The Big Idea, Ideas in Action, Resources, Note from Pam

The Big Idea: What do you stand for?

“My life is my message.” 

~ Gandhi

That’s true for all of us, isn’t it? It’s just that Gandhi knew what message he wanted to send and organized his life accordingly.

Ideas in Action: OK, so what do YOU stand for???

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

If you want to stand for something that matters to you, take these four steps:

Step 1:  Figure out what you stand for now.

Try starting with an outside perspective. Email 5-8 people you know from various parts of your life and ask them what they think you stand for, e.g., “If you were to describe what’s most important to me, my most central values, what would those be?” and “What do you see as my legacy to the people and organizations I’ve been a part of?” This may sound bizarre, but I bet the people you ask will respond warmly and accurately (at least on the “good” stuff).

Take note of the values by which you make decisions. Keep a running list…or a collection of post-its that you can move up and down a page as the relative weight you place on that value shifts. For example, you decide to spend a vacation with relatives rather than an independent trip. Are you choosing connection rather than reflection? Comfort instead of adventure? Duty before fun? Clearly, there are no right or wrong answers, only what’s true for you.

Be alert to your passions, habits, and whims. Do you stand for…”meetings that are worth people’s time?” “Kindness to people who are struggling?” “Truth in all things unless it makes me look bad?”


Step 2:  Figure out what you intend to stand for.

“Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

~ Howard Thurman

Some people feel “called” to a destiny. Others believe that we just “make it up” (see Fritz, below). Others choose to align with a universal code, whether offered by a specific religious tradition or sensed simply as a wholesome basis for action. The point is, it’s your choice.

If you want to live your life with purpose, then you must have a clear understanding of what it is you truly stand for. Take a little time to write down at a least your rough idea. Make if a topics for meditation, journaling, art, trips to mountaintops and deserted beaches, wherever you think most clearly. You can start by considering these three areas:

• What you’re doing here on the planet (your purpose)?

• What you hold as important (your values)?

• What you are committed to seeing happen (your vision)?


Step 3:  Take action to close the gap, if there is any.

What are three powerful things you could do today to make it clear that you stand for [insert your important stuff here]? Would you exercise? Show your team more respect? Offer your sister in college a loan? Bike rather than drive?

What structures or support do you need to put in place to make these stick? Friends to do this with? A coach or mentor? An alarm on your phone to remind you?


Step 4:  Go live it.


Resources for Further Exploration

“Living Life on Purpose: A Guide to Creating a Life of Success and Significance” by Greg Anderson

This tiny book challenges each of us to get clear about why we’re on the planet. If you usually hate cheerful books, see if you can grit your teeth and work through this one.

“The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life (Revised)” by Robert Fritz

Once you take a stab at articulating why you’re on the planet, you may want to make some new choices about how you live your life. You’ll find great wisdom here on choice and experimentation.

“Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It” by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

This book offers practical perspectives on character and purpose as the basis for leadership. This isn’t new ground, but these guys do a great job with it.

“Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in? Everyday Life” by Thich Nhat Hanh

A grace-filled reminder that we choose in each moment where to place our awareness. What we stand for shows up most powerfully here, right now.

And anything on Gandhi.

Note from Pam

Glad you’re here. Some of the ideas in my posts will strike you as obvious…I invite you to step back and look at how this is actually working in your life. Others will seem far out…and I invite you to consider how much choice you actually have.

Together we will actively explore – How we can be our most creative, effective selves – How we can build organizations worthy of our talent and energy – How we can shape lives that deeply fulfill us. I’m glad you’ve joined in the adventure!



Expand your capacity to take on bigger opportunities?

Lead your organization to bring out the best around you?

Be your most influential, productive self in your work?

Guide your organization to success after success?

IdeaShape helps you start smart, shape the future, and make differences productive. We specialize in coaching executives, strengthening senior team communication, and facilitating strategy, team-building, and innovation sessions. We bring distinctive capabilities to all our services:

  • Intensive focus on helping highly-capable people achieve more, with greater fulfillment.
  • Extensive business experience, including coaching and consulting with leading corporations and entrepreneurial organizations.
  • Foundation in leadership, coaching, and organizational theory and practice.
  • Expert interpretation and innovative use of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and other personality theories and assessments.
  • Support for making the most of everything you are — unique gifts, deepest values, highest aims — to accomplish your goals.

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picture credit: https://massindian.blogspot.co.il/2010/11/mahatma-gandhi-pictures-free.html

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About Pam Fox Rollin

Pam Fox Rollin coaches executives and high potentials especially in technology, health care, biotech, and professional services. Pam specializes in working with leaders stepping up from being rock stars in their functional areas to more strategic senior roles. She also guides the top teams of public, private, and fast-growth global companies to lead together more effectively.

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