21st Century Alchemy: I believe …

Perhaps there are no more powerful words than ‘I believe …’

‘I’ firmly grounds whatever follows in the speaker’s perspective – in their reality. ‘Believe’ further strengthens whatever they’re about to say. It means that what they’re about to say is true – at least, it’s true for them.

Recently, my six-year-old daughter has begun making sense of her existence. This has caused her to be afraid, not of what she sees, but of what she doesn’t. For example, she can’t see what’s directly behind her and so she’s filled this unseeable void with ghosts, monsters, and many other forms of scary creatures.

Initially, we were going to say they’re not real. But that’s not quite right. For her, they are real, and although she can’t prove they exist, we can’t prove they don’t. Proof requires evidence and a lack of evidence can never prove nor disprove anything. It’s really a matter of belief. She believes they’re real. We believe they’re not. But neither of us have any proof.

Evaluate the evidence
I’ll never fully understand why the lives of Tony Scott or Robin Williams came to such a tragic end. But when I reflect on their deaths, and lives, I’m led to believe that at the core of every ‘I believe …’ statement is value.

You see, what we believe is based on our evaluations and our evaluations are based on our values. In other words, how you complete your ‘I believe …?’ is far more dependent on what you value than the evidence itself. Even though the evidence of a ‘good’ or successful life was there for both Scott and Williams, their evaluations were different, and sadly, it didn’t transform their beliefs.

So even if the evidence is there, if you don’t value it (or if it doesn’t fit into your value system), it will never translate into you feeling successful.

Do you believe you’re valued at work? If not, you’ll feel unsuccessful regardless of the money you make or the praise you receive.

Do you believe that your work is valuable? If not, it won’t matter if you’re extremely succesful or wealthy. You’ll feel unfulfilled or, worse still, like a fraud.

How then, should you evaluate your success?

Evaluate your values
Step 1: Know – living in alignment with and satisfying your values is crucial to personal fulfilment and harmony with your environment. Values include principles, standards and qualities. They don’t include material goods or people, although these can be proof of your values. Take time to seriously reflect on what you value.

Step 2: Define and refine – After you’ve listed your potential values, choose the top five to ten and describe what they mean, their significance, and what your life would look like if they were satisfied. The clearer they are, the easier it’ll be to act on them. Prioritise them (e.g needs, wants, nice-to-haves).

Step 3: Satisfy/fulfil – If we valued our career values like other needs, then their satisfaction becomes critical. Your career is your professional life, YOUR LIFE, and your professional values are vital to maintaining your professional health. Don’t dismiss them or minimise their importance.


Q: I work hard, meet my targets and have even completed leadership training courses, but after eight years, I’ve never been promoted. I like where I work, but I’m starting to feel like this is a dead end. ~ Anonymous

A: Management might see you as a bedrock employee: safe, reliable, trustworthy. Don’t wait for someone to give you something. Ask for it and what’s needed to make it happen. Ultimately, you’re responsible for your own career. Don’t leave it in the hands of someone else. If you’re growing and they don’t provide the right environment, find a place that does. I often tell people that they should be working themselves out of a job. Consistently exceed their expectations to the extent that they can see you’re no longer suited for the role but are too valuable an asset to lose.

Q: I’m a technical writer for a marketing agency who is often let down by a lazy colleague. He’s so well-liked that none of my superiors take me seriously when I complain that I’m doing most of the work. ~ Søren

A: If he’s well-liked, he must be doing something right. Compliment him specifically and explain how it contributes to the project. Better still, motivate him by saying how these positives are needed in specific areas so that he can be inspired to take ownership. Lastly, tell him you need his help and that without it, the project won’t be as good as it could be.

Q: I manage a small company and I’ve received several complaints about an employee who wears too much perfume. I’m not sure how to handle this one. ~ Pernille

A: It’s very easy to offend someone when confronting them with health or hygiene issues. So be very tactful! First, individually ask others (not the gossips) if they have specific issues with it. If it is a problem, then as the manager, it’s your responsibility to talk directly about it in a diplomatic, but private manner. But always err on the cautious side when being direct. Sometimes just making the person aware is all that’s needed. Give them time to respond, but make sure they respond.




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