If you ask just about anyone these days about the elements most important to achieving success in life, the majority will tell you to have a vision of where you want to go. A good number of the rest will encourage you to find your passion.
These people are not wrong. Visions are critical. Having a destination is necessary to plan a journey. Passion is equally important. It is the fuel that will propel you.
So, if this is all that is needed, why do so many people fail to even get started? Because, like many things in life, there is more to the story.
Every great journey needs a destination, however, it also needs a starting point – and knowing exactly where you are right now is not as easy as it sounds.
What are you talking about? I know where I am!
Do you? Knowing “where” you are means you have a thorough understanding of all the major areas in your life. It means you know your strengths, your weaknesses, your best qualities, as well as where your blind spots might lie.
In order to be able to really understand where he’s starting from, a man must go through a period of deep reflection. The more profound the reflection, the more profound the understanding of who and where you really are. The reality is however that most people skip right over this step.
We can see with relative ease if we’re overweight. We can see with relative ease if we are in a dire financial position. We can see with only modest reflection if we’re in a bad relationship. When macro level things are out of sync, it’s obvious. We are, however, not made up simply of these large things. While important, they do not represent all that we are. The true fabric of our being is much more nuanced and understanding it can be elusive, yet it is absolutely necessary if you want to have a chance at success.
The best way to develop your own Code of Conduct is to go on a journey of self-reflection. Doing this, especially from scratch, isn’t as hard as it sounds. Are we just? Are we absent judgment? Are we patient? Are we kind? Are we resilient? Are we wise? Are we happy?
Each of these, and so much more, make up who we are today. This is the nuance I was talking about. It’s the DNA of who you are as a man.
The best way to develop your own Code of Conduct is to go on a journey of self-reflection. Tweet That — Joshua Laycock
Do you have a Code?
A Code outlines which character traits – which values – are important to us. If you don’t have one, you need to create one.
The best way to develop your own Code of Conduct is to go on a journey of self-reflection. Doing this, especially from scratch, may feel daunting, but it isn’t as hard as it sounds. It is work though.
Building your Code.
There are some basic steps that you should follow and will help you form a solid and actionable Code of Conduct:
Step 1 – Focus on values and character traits that resonate with you
At this point, you should be thinking “bigger picture” and be focusing less on specific actions. These are the virtues that form a part of your ideal self so it’s worth taking some time here.
Write out words that come to mind like honor, integrity, discipline, and trust. Just write and see where it goes. At first, you’ll probably develop a very long list, but if you target around 10-15 values, without which the others might not be able to exist, that’s a solid foundation.
Look for opportunities to pare the list down where certain words or attributes may overlap.
Example – “living with integrity” and “keeping promises.” You can’t live with integrity if you don’t keep your word, so both might not be necessary.
Once you’ve got your core list, it’s time to go deeper.
Step 2 – Explore why these values are important to you
What is it about a certain trait or belief that appeals to you? You might draw from life experience – perhaps a time a core value was lacking or happened to serve you well – or a trait found in a person you look up to.
Chances are good that all of the things you wrote down should form part of a strong Code of Conduct, but if you wrote them down simply because you thought you should, you’re going to have a heck of a time living up to them.
For each word or phrase, jot down why they are important. Why does this particular word deserve a place on your list and how does it help you move towards being the man you know you’re capable of becoming? This might feel like “going through the motions” but there is value in doing it.
Example – Integrity is important because a critical part of who I am is a resource for others. I want people to trust me with helping them thrive in life and work through the challenges that are holding them back. If I do not act with integrity – keeping things in confidence, honoring my word by following up on things I say I will do, giving unbiased advice etc. – no one will look to me in this way and I will not fulfill my purpose in life.
Step 3 – Write your Code
The Code needs to be written in a positive, action-oriented way. Think “I will” statements as opposed to “I hope”, “I’ll try” or vague declarations that accomplish very little.
These are statements designed to empower you and which support each value you identified in step 1.
Example – for Integrity, “I will act with Integrity at all times, in all things”. For Ownership, “I will accept total responsibility for all of my decisions and actions”.
Step 4 – Review and keep it tight
People often feel the need to make a personal Code of Conduct lengthy and detailed. Resist this urge and keep it to the point. One sentence at a time. One idea at a time.
In challenging times, you’ll want to be able to refer back to it quickly. If you write a paragraph for each value, the document risks feeling heavy and overwhelming. This isn’t a novel. It’s a bullet point list that will act as your guard-rails in life.
Step 5 – Don’t rush it
Okay, so this isn’t really a step, but more like some good advice. This is arguably the most important document you’ll need to write. Really take the time to identify which elements of conduct form your foundation, without which there is no opportunity to be the man you want to be. These base traits will be your lighthouse, showing you the way to safe harbor.
You’ll be referring back to this document a lot in life, so even though you can always tweak it a bit, you really want to get it right. Give it the attention it deserves.
So now what? I still don’t see how this tells me where I am.
This is where you need to start to do a deep dive into who you are and to begin to assess how you actually stack up against who you want to be.
Once you have your Code, reflect on each element. Intimately.
The code is the ideal. It defines what we’re striving for. But do you actually live up to any of these traits you’ve identified?
This is the hard part; the dirt-under-your-fingernails work that is worth the effort. You need to look at each one of those elements of your Code and be brutally honest with yourself about how you stack up.
Yeah, fine. How?
For some that might be to write in a journal. For others, it might be to walk in nature and think. Others still may sit and meditate on them. Find a friend or group of people – a tribe – that you trust and bring it up with them. There is no right answer. The key is to explore each element as it pertains to your life.
When we start to examine our lives, there is a good chance we won’t like everything we see. The truth is, you are probably living a life congruent with many of the things you’ve identified, and others…not so much.
You’ll probably also realize, now that you’re looking at these traits through a bit of a different lens, you aren’t living up to your true potential as a man.
When our eyes are finally open to the real possibility of achieving something great, the comparisons we’ve made of ourselves to those around us, start to seem petty. We no longer compare ourselves to celebrities and their fame, to our coworkers with the better job title or the neighbor with the bigger house.
The standards by which we measure ourselves ought to always be rising. We know we can do better.
Be careful though. It’s a slippery slope.
Acknowledging our flaws or shortcomings is an important first step on this journey – some might argue it is THE first step – however, it also opens the door to the possibility of profound negative self-talk.
In our search for improvement, we can really dwell on these flaws. We can begin to see ourselves through a dark lens; one that can act as an anchor and lead to self-destruction. Remember, an absence of compassion is not the same as “being” without compassion. An absence of patience is not the same as “being” impatient. An absence of resilience is not the same as “being” weak.
You are not your flaws or weaknesses. They are simply things we need to work on.
Throughout this entire process, be kind to yourself. Don’t go easy – that’s not the same thing. Push. But be kind. It’s a slow process.
The self-aware man needs to be able to reveal these weaknesses through self-reflection, inventory them, and then immediately set in motion a plan to improve.
Remember always, however, that we improve incrementally. Expecting immediate enlightenment is the surest way to fail the journey before you’ve even really begun. Each flaw, weakness, or “blind spot” represents an opportunity that only a select few have the capacity to acknowledge, and fewer still have the courage to face. Address them one by one.
When you go through this process, don’t set out looking for failures, but don’t ignore them either. The goal is to paint a picture in your mind as to how each element manifests itself in your life, with such clarity that you develop an awareness of it instinctively.
When presented with a certain scenario, how do you typically respond? How would you like to respond? What does success look like?
The self-aware man needs to be able to reveal these weaknesses through self-reflection, inventory them, and then immediately set in motion a plan to improve. Tweet That — Joshua Laycock
The Code of Conduct in action
Eventually, by absorbing and making your Code an essential part of what guides you, you will begin to know when a situation requires courage and know how to act in accordance with your Code. You will know when a situation requires patience, or temperance, or action, or strength….and you will know, in your bones, what the right course of action is.
And sometimes you will fail.
You will likely avoid a tough conversation with a loved one. You may not speak up when someone is being picked on or being rude. You may not show restraint when you want to stop eating or you may take credit for someone else’s work. You may not stop yourself from judging someone on the quality of their car or the clothes they choose to wear. You may not avoid being quick to anger or slow to forgive. You aren’t where you want to be.
Don’t dwell on it.
Register it. Accept it. Embrace it. Work on it.
You will make progress.
This is your journey, and it is just the beginning.