Someone once said that "if you don’t stand for something, you'll DO just about anything." My hero, Jim Rohn, once said that the foundation for having a successful life is having a personal philosophy. I agree with both of those assertions. Having "rules of the road" for our lives can help us to determine our boundaries and draw "lines-in-the-sand" when and where they are appropriate. We've all known people who live with no "center" or boundaries. They may seem carefree on the surface, but as the late John Gardner said: "We are worriers and puzzlers and we want meaning in our lives. I'm not speaking idealistically; I'm stating a plainly observable fact about men and women. It's a rare person who can go through life like a homeless alley cat, living from day to day, taking its pleasures where it can and dying unnoticed." Which kind of person do you want to be?

I frequently help my clients identify their governing beliefs (aka their personal codes of conduct or philosophies). Doing so helps them pinpoint the reasons for dissonance when they feel it. I also encourage them to perform "self-audits" periodically, to see whether they are living in harmony with their espoused beliefs. Those reality checks are frequently both powerful and disconcerting.

Several years ago when I was going through a rough period in my life, I documented my own governing beliefs. I did this by examining my actions and then:

• In areas I was achieving satisfaction, I documented those successes and identified, in writing, the beliefs that informed them.

• In areas in which I was either performing badly or behaving poorly, I identified the categories and reasons. I then documented aspirations in those areas. Now …

Each week I conduct a post-mortem on my actions. I compare them to my beliefs, identify where I am going astray, and resolve to do better.

Doing this has improved my life.

Today, when I examine my beliefs weekly, I occasionally change one. I NEVER do that, however, to accommodate my failures or shortcomings. I only do it if I believe that I am constraining my own growth.

What follows is a MUCH abridged version of my governing beliefs as they stand today:

• I believe that I own my life, and that I am totally and completely responsible for my actions and accountable for my results.

• I believe that personal growth is our primary, lifelong mission.

• I believe strongly in self-management and course correction. Wisdom is NOT an automatic by-product of experience. Here's the formula: Wisdom = experience x reflection x relentless honesty x accountability (accepting consequences with no blame, no finger-pointing, no excuses, no whining, no escape-hatch) x behavioral change. Each of these elements is necessary, but alone, each is insufficient; it takes them all.

• Our natural tendency – one that we must reject – is to associate with people who affirm who we already are, rather than those who inspire us to reach higher and do better. I believe that in order to grow, we must surround ourselves with the kind of people we WANT to be, rather than those who mirror our own character defects! We must also discard naysayers, doomsdayers and dream-slayers. If we want to grow, they have to go!

• I believe in acceptance (giving in to reality). I DO NOT believe in resignation (giving up on possibility).

• I believe in under-commitment and over-delivery, not the other way around, and that character is both forged and revealed by commitments we make and keep.

• I believe in relentlessly searching for THE truth, and that an absolute requirement for success is our ability and inclination to differentiate from among "OUR truth," "OTHERS' truth," and "THE truth."

• I believe in the priority of creating a meaningful life, and that each person must define "meaning" for him or her self.

• I believe in the virtues of integrity, honesty, courage and valor, accountability for my actions, perseverance and (especially) loyalty.

• I believe that without discipline, aspiration is hallucination.

• I believe that it's never too late to find happiness, and that it's worth a high price. One of life’s biggest challenges – maybe THE biggest – is figuring out which bridges to cross and which ones to burn in an effort to accomplish that, without doing too much damage to ourselves or others along the way.

• I believe this is the formula that many people employ to justify their dysfunctional behavior:

Doing the wrong thing and a good excuse or rationalization = doing the right thing.

Instead of the aforementioned, I believe that when we feel discomfort from dissonance, we must use it to change rather than rationalize our behavior! Discomfort should instigate action and growth, not provoke inertia or excuses. Personal responsibility must always trump comfort or convenience.

I have failed myself, many times, when measured against my own beliefs. Instead of making excuses, the question I regularly ask myself is this: "When I fail, do I commit to DO better and to BE better?"

I absolutely guarantee you that if you take the time to do this exercise you will be a better person tomorrow (not perfect, but better) than you are today.

It's worth it!

Copyright 2010 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit