My motto in life is simple and straightforward: Do your best. It might sound cliché, but when you break it down, it says so much in just three words.
I’ve always put my best effort into everything I’ve done, which has led to several successful professional and personal achievements. When I come up short, I can say with confidence that it wasn’t for lack of effort.
Finding your motto in life is crucial to designing the career and journey you desire most. It acts as a compass, helping you navigate the way to your dream lifestyle. When you can define what you value and give yourself moral parameters, you simplify the decision-making process.
Here’s how you can find your own life motto:
1. Define what matters.
I encourage people to write down what they value most and how those values help them define their goals. Writing is a powerful tool that has an amazing impact on our efforts. It can help us stay aware and encourage us to be accountable for our decisions and actions.
A 2014 study published by Palgrave Communications looked at academic performance of first-year college students. It found that a goal-setting intervention involving writing “boosted academic achievement and increased retention rates.”
The best part about writing is that it forces you to reflect on who you are and recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Start by writing about three accomplishments and three failures, then highlight moments of efficiency and inefficiency to find the common theme in each situation.
Write some advice you would give to yourself in those moments, then reduce it to generalized directives. For example, if a common theme in one of your moments of failure involved distractions and a lack of focus, you could write out specific advice, such as stop looking at Facebook so much. Then translate that into an evergreen tip: Practice moderation.
Compile these bits of advice to help inform your list of values. In this example, you would list balance or discretion as one of your values. Once you have that list, practice them every single day.
Translate these values into a motto to live by. Write it in an active voice that is clear, concise and can be applied to your daily life. Mine works for me because it’s active, simple and easy to remember when I need to stay focused and be true to myself.
Related: Do Your Actions Reflect Your Values?
2. Find your community.
Your circle of friends helps mold you in more ways than you know. The school you attend, the people you meet, the ideas you share with your community—all of it shapes you in meaningful ways.
My values were developed during my time at University of California-Los Angeles, where I first discovered Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. Studying the Pyramid of Success helped me achieve my personal goals during and after college. I had the opportunity to meet John Wooden while I was a student, and his humility, dignity and sense of honor really left an impression on me.
Seek out these important people in your life. Join professional networks and surround yourself with ambitious professionals. Be authentic, speak confidently and build strong, meaningful relationships.
Relationships are two-way streets, so make sure you don’t sit back and hope people will reach out to you. A July 2014 OfficeTeam survey found that 28 percent of senior managers say failing to keep in touch is a major networking mistake.
Simply put, be proactive and stay in touch.
3. Exercise consistency and open-mindedness.
An important aspect of a life motto is flexibility. It isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it practice. Time passes, people change, circumstances arise and priorities might shift. Have an open mind and be prepared to revisit your life motto consistently.
View every day as an opportunity for you to apply your values and motto in effective ways. Let it guide your decision-making.
My motto helps me stay on course. For example, during the 2008 Great Recession, when I was a startup entrepreneur and nothing was guaranteed, I continued to persevere every time I reminded myself to do my best. My willingness to work hard and make sacrifices is what helped me build professional success and create a lasting impact.
Now I get to carry out my life motto with HonorSociety.org by rewarding and cultivating success within our society. Members are encouraged to be leaders in their community and to establish themselves through achievements and goals. I am honored every day when I see how three words brought me to where I am today, allowing me to make a difference in my community by helping others find their journey and define their vision.
Every time I feel overwhelmed and burdened by negative circumstances, I come back to my motto. Treat your motto like a mantra, and allow it to give you certainty in times of uncertainty, hope in times of hopelessness and direction when you don’t know where to go.
Michael Moradian is the executive director of HonorSociety.org, an honor society that recognizes academic achievement and provides valuable resources and tools to its members. Connect with Michael and HonorSociety.org on Twitter at @HonorSocietyorg.