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How to be authentic and purposeful

Clive Wilson

What is authenticity? Our webinar speaker, CEO and author Clive Wilson, discusses how he developed a model of every-day purpose for his company, Primeast

What is authenticity?  As a precursor to this topic, I thought it would be good to explore authenticity, especially what it means to be authentic at work.

To most people, authenticity is about “being who we truly are”, but what does this really mean?  Who indeed are we? 

We are a work in progress

Many researchers agree that the ‘me’ we have come to know over this lifetime is actually a product of countless generations, evolving since life began. As human beings, much of this ‘me’ is programmed in our DNA, causing scripts to run in our subconscious minds.  These scripts have helped our ancestors to thrive and evolve in the various contexts they inhabited. Many of these scripts remain vital for our survival but some may well be redundant. 

You could argue that our purpose in life is to continue this job of evolution in order to thrive as part of life in our world and enjoy the process. In short, we are a product of nature and nurture and our so-called authentic self is very much a work in progress. We are its authors and whether we are reactive or proactive in this context depends on our attitude and purpose in life. It is the difference between fate and destiny. 

Having PrimeFocus

With all this in mind, I’d like to give you a framework that helps to define a purposeful life form. It was constructed for a very particular life form.  I first drew the PrimeFocus framework in the 1990,s when the electricity industry in the UK was going through significant change. I wanted a model that would principally indicate that, as organisations evolve a new purpose and vision, they must change their structures and especially their character in order to be successful. 

It is still as relevant today. The eight ‘conditions’ for success shown in PrimeFocus are explained in DPO and various videos and resources are available online. The key thing to focus on in this article is that PrimeFocus works at every level of life. So, just as an organisation can tune these eight conditions to be in alignment, so can we. Healthy organisations have clarity of purpose, compelling visions, healthy engagement with stakeholders, efficient structures and supportive cultures. They produce results that measure the progress they are making to their vision, and have a felt sense of success in teams and as a whole.  They align the talents and strengths of everyone involved to the purpose, as the power behind the machine. 

And so do we as individuals. Everything said above for a healthy organisation applies to each one of us.  Aligning our life to a clear sense of purpose and being true to our values enables us to be authentic. We can begin to test the alignment of our values to those of the organisation by conducting a free personal values assessment and comparing the results to the known values of our organisation.  Do we need to align to our organisations in order to be successful?  So, it might be tempting to think we can only be authentic in an organisation where we are completely aligned – where the eight ‘conditions’ for me fits with those required by our employer.  

However, this is not so. Being aligned simply means it’s ‘easier’ to fit in and contribute. Being misaligned doesn’t mean we don’t belong, although it will likely feel that way.  If we are misaligned, we need to ask the question, “Is my misalignment useful to evolving this organisation so it can better serve humanity?”  The degree to which this answer is “Yes”, will likely have a bearing on the toughness of the challenge ahead. Think of Nelson Mandela, did he make his greatest contribution to South Africa and humanity by fitting in?  Indeed he didn’t. He chose, at great personal sacrifice, to take on the system with a better future in his heart and mind.  And when asked by reporters what the secret of his success was, his response was, quite simply: “I know who I am.” 

For more articles about purposeful careers by Clive Wilson, click here 

Clive Wilson is a coach, speaker, author of  Designing the Purposeful Organization –how to inspire business performance beyond boundaries (DPO), and director at Primeast. To sign up to future webinars, and listen to previous talks, click here.


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