Build an Unshakable Foundation

Build an Unshakable Foundation

In the same way a building needs a sturdy foundation that can survive time and the elements you need a strong personal foundation for support along the winding and occasionally bumpy road of life.  You might assume that I’m talking about faith or purpose, and while these are surely beneficial components, a personal foundation needs to be much broader to provide strength and balance in all areas of your life.

What you may not realize is that you already have a personal foundation, although if you are like most people it has been casually formed by default through the years.

In fact, most of us don’t even become aware of critical weaknesses until we suddenly find ourselves facing a crisis or a major life change. The more pressure we’re under, the greater the likelihood a weak foundation will begin to shift and crack, leaving us feeling unsteady, vulnerable and struggling to move forward.

Here are the building blocks for a foundation that support a highly resilient life:

  • A compelling vision for life.
  • Sense of meaning and purpose.
  • Commitment to personal accountability.
  • Mutually nurturing relationships.
  • Healthy personal support system.
  • Ability to understand and manage feelings and emotions.
  • Self-care practices that promote health and long-term well-being.
  • Confident decision-making and problem-solving skills.

While this list represents the ideal, it serves to focus on the areas that make the greatest impact on your life.

For example, your level of emotional awareness affects your ability to communicate, your level of stress and anxiety, the quality of your relationships, and how you deal with change and adversity.

The good news is that many of these skills and behaviors overlap such as accountability and confident decision-making, so doing the work to develop one area will naturally help to support related traits and abilities.  

These are all areas that can be developed over time, building confidence and resilience in the process. 

Of course, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

To achieve clarity and create the critical underpinning for your personal foundation, the single most valuable exercise you can undertake is to create a vision for your life.

Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.

~Mahatma Gandhi


Your Vision for Life

A well-crafted vision is the roadmap that will keep you focused on making the right choices to build a life that is resilient, fulfilling and purpose-filled.

A life of your own making that you can be proud of.

It’s a process of clarifying your values and highest life priorities, who you want to be, what you want to stand for and the significant experiences and accomplishments you are aiming for in your lifetime.

A vision for life becomes your why.

There those who will point to this process as creating an expectation which risks disappointment – something many people go (way!) out of their way to avoid.

So, just to clarify, this is about aligning the direction of your path in life with priorities and core values, not setting expectations for a specific outcome.

Yes, it takes time and work. Yes, it’s far easier to just go with the flow and let life unfold.

The problem is that when you have no direction or connection to your core values, the deepest truth of who you are, it becomes remarkably easy for your life to follow a path formed by fate, circumstances and the influence of others.

It this sounds a bit dramatic, maybe a little too self-helpish, take a moment to reflect on the following quotation, the #1 regret of the dying according to Bronnie Ware’s book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.


Give Yourself Time

In our quick-fix society, it’s tempting to avoid doing the time-consuming inner work that is required to create your vision. After all, you’re busy with commitments, work, relationships and that never-ending task list.

But as the Lewis Carroll once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will do.” The same applies here.

Every day you get to decide who you want to be, and the life you want to create.

Ultimately, the best way to decide who you want to be is to clarify your core values and what you want to stand for. 

Integrity, honesty, discipline, and trust are more than lofty sounding words they are examples of personal values.

Of course, like so many other things, there’s no shortage of advice about how to go about defining your values – the quicker the better. Frankly, I view advice like this as just one reason why so many people have come to distrust “self-help” strategies.

When you consider the critical role values play, do you really want to rely on a few words that you pick out of an arbitrary list in 15 minutes or less to guide your entire life?

Seriously, the only way to identify values that truly reflect who you want to be is to invest the time and effort. These values will then play a vital role in the strengthening of your personal foundation as the guiding rules for your life.

Beware of False Limitations

From early childhood we each begin forming beliefs about ourselves, and these beliefs are developed in the form of stories that we repeatedly tell ourselves and others about who we are, where we’re from and where we’re going.

What you need to be aware of is that our stories may or may not conform to the real world.

That’s not to say we’re all chronic liars, it’s just that we’re well-practiced editors. We can’t possibly tell every single detail of a story, so we have to choose a focus, decide what’s relevant, and leave out everything that doesn’t matter, but human nature is such that our editing choices are inevitably driven by our biases.

Our stories may be comforting and familiar, perhaps even funny, but in many cases, they are also severely limiting. Not only do the stories we tell ourselves have the power to influence us, stories told often enough have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

The point is, as you begin crafting your vision don’t limit yourself to what you think is realistic or possible, or (especially) what others expect of you. This is the type of thinking that keeps you from challenging self-limiting beliefs and discovering your true potential.

Don’t try to accomplish this in one sitting. You might try writing for 15 minutes at a time for 4 days, then as you go about your day try to be mindful of your feelings to help you identify experiences and circumstances that trigger particular emotional responses and make a note of them to explore later.

Above all, don’t worry about achieving a perfect vision.

Your aim is to strengthen your foundation so you can say or do what matters in the long run rather than what will simply get you through the day.

From your vision you’ll establish priorities, standards and goals, all of which align to create your path to the life you desire to create for yourself.

There will be obstacles and unexpected detours, but when you have an unshakeable foundation you can weather any storm.

The key to thriving is being conscious and intentional about who you want to be and the life you desire to create for yourself, and recognizing that it is your day to day actions that will move you toward achieving that vision.

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