This is the first post in a series of three about being what you want to be by design not by accident. This post is about being the individual you want to be, the next is about being a collective and the third being a business. In preparing this post, I have spent considerable time trying to understand the difference between being and doing and am still no wiser. What is the difference between being a gardener and doing the garden or just plain gardening? One is what you are and the other is what you do but I cannot see any significant difference. I have come to the conclusion that you are what you do and you do what you are. To lead a good life, to be fulfilled, to be happy, being and doing must be one and the same.

As an individual person, what does it mean to be? To be is more than simply to exist, to be is to exist with the properties and characteristics of something whole. To be is to have identity, I am a woman, you are a doctor, she is a mother, they are friends. To be is to do, I run, you talk, he shivers, they climb. To be is to have characteristics, I am tall, you are handsome, she is female, they are fussy. Being is the sum total of all these and we identify a being by its actions and characteristics. Hence the idiom ‘if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck’.

Humans are different than other species in that, as well as being a human in the general sense, they can be one or many of a wide range of specific roles. The same person can be a father, a son, a nurse, a poet, a cyclist and a friend. They can be more than one of those things at the same time but probably not all at once. We choose what we want to be, who we want to be, what we want to do. We choose our values, our purpose and our principles which determine what we do and the way we do it. When our values and purpose and principles and actions are wholly and fully aligned, then we are satisfied, happy and fulfilled. This is the state of Aristotle’s eudaimonia, of Maslow’s self-actualisation, of Japanese ikigai.

We get to be what we are and do what we do in different ways. Many people are fortunate, they develop their values, purpose and principles through childhood and grow into a role which suits them by unconscious choice. The most fortunate of all are those who grow into their roles by conscious choice because they know that they are living their dream. Others are not so fortunate; they are what they are and do what they do out of necessity or they were made to be that way by others, either by persuasion or coercion. Being someone by choice increases the chance of fulfilment, being someone without choice reduces that chance. When someone is unhappy, unsatisfied and unfulfilled it is often clear from their behaviour that they are not being what they want to be or doing what they want to do.

Humans have free-will, the right and the ability to choose. We can choose what we want to be if we want to. If a person is not satisfied, not happy and not fulfilled, they can choose to be and do something other than what they are but it is not easy and not always possible. The first step is to have a vision of what they want to be and do.

But there is a trap, and the trap is delusion. It is all too easy to believe you are one thing and to actually be another. What you are to everyone else is your identity, your behaviour and your characteristics, it is not what you believe you are, your self. You may think you’re an angel but actually you may be a duck.


A personal vision is a complete picture of what a person wants to be and do, inside and outside, what they believe in and stand for, what they do and why they do it, how they behave and why. Painting that picture begins with what is inside them, their values, those things which are most important to them, and it ends with what is outside, on view to all, their actions. What links the inside to the outside are the choices they make. In creating a vision, a person can choose a purpose and principles which are consistent with their values. Then, by choice, they act in ways which deliver their chosen purpose in ways which accord with their chosen principles.

To have a complete vision, all the parts must be included in the picture and all must be painted in detail.


Humans have beliefs and make judgements based on those beliefs. We value those things which we judge to be of worth to us, we decide whether something is desirable or undesirable. We make judgements of utility, if something is good or bad, based on whether it satisfies our needs or not. We make judgements of virtue, if behaviour is right or wrong, based on social acceptability. Those which we judge to be good or right are our values. The most important of these are our core values.

One problem with understanding values is that literally anything can be one. Take anything in existence and, if you judge it to be good rather than bad, right rather than wrong, desirable rather than undesirable, then it has worth to you and you want to be it, have it, or do it. If you believe that it meets your needs in some way, it has utility, it has value. If you believe that it is the right way to behave, it has virtue, it has value. These two categories, those things which you judge to have utility and those things which you judge to be virtuous can be many, many things. The first category might include safety, security, freedom, autonomy, equality, health, cleanliness, tranquillity, excitement, convenience, comfort, nature, sport, environment, sustenance, friends, transport, energy, food, warmth, fresh air, and knowledge. The second category could include having honesty, integrity, creativity, curiosity, courage, diplomacy, consideration, kindness, fairness, diligence, honour, or being conservative, staid, trendy, prudish, libertarian, current, caring, helpful, or wise. To be manageable, the huge number of possibilities must be reduced to a smaller number of core values, those considered to be the most important. A long list is a good place to start and, if necessary, there are many such lists available as a prompt and there are two short examples above in the categories of utility and virtue. But such lists should not be slavishly followed or simply copied, they are someone else’s values, not yours. One helpful strategy is to think back to times when you felt good about what you were doing, about a situation, when you had a sense of achievement and satisfaction. In those memories will be things of value; they are the reasons we feel good. They can also be found in memories of the opposite, things which happened or things we did which made us feel bad or sad. In those memories are the opposites of things of value. To rationalise the list try grouping some together where there is a common theme, or test one against the other and decide which one is the most important to you. When the list has become short enough, say 5 to 10 themes, and there is nothing you can leave out, turn the words into phrases which capture the meaning of the themes.

Purpose and Principles

The next part of the vision to complete is purpose and principles, choices about what to do with your life and the way to live it. Both are decisions which must be based on values to have real meaning. Choose a purpose which is not aligned with values and it will have no utility. You will have no desire to pursue it, no determination, no energy, no ability to overcome obstacles and challenges. Choose principles which are not aligned with values and they will have no virtue. You will have no pleasure in life, only feelings of guilt, remorse and unhappiness. In choosing purpose it is best to be conscious of your own attributes, aptitudes and abilities. A being can have many purposes and, whilst there is satisfaction to be had in their pursuit, there is much more to be had in their achievement. Choose what to do with your life so that you are likely to enjoy it, be good at, to achieve it, as well as something which aligns with your values.

If you have chosen your values carefully, your principles will largely choose themselves, they are the ways you will behave naturally because they are your values, you have no choice if you want to be happy. They are still worth making explicit rather than just being implicit in your actions. Use behavioural examples which add detail to the virtuous concepts. A behavioural example follows the structure ‘when I do this, I will do it this way’. These mixtures of what is done and the way it is done are activities and they are part of what is recognised as a role. There are role models and stereotypes and there is always a role to be found which fits with personal judgements of value and choice of purpose and principles.


Actions are a combination of what is done and the way that it is done. Once you have decided your purpose, what you will do with your life, then you can begin to set goals, decide strategies and make plans which will enable you to pursue that purpose. The plans will be made up from actions, the things you are actually going to do in pursuit of purpose. Actions are a choice both in the act, the what, and the manner, the way. If there is more than one action which will help to deliver a goal, the right choice is the one which is most closely aligned to principles. If there is more than one way to carry out an action, then the right choice is the way which is most closely aligned to principles. Principles act as a guide in everything done and the way it is done. They are the regulator which ensures that a person doesn’t do good things in a bad way even if doing so would help to pursue their purpose.


For an individual, becoming the vision is living in pursuit of purpose in accordance with principles, acting in ways which are consistent with values, purpose and principles. This should be straightforward for individuals if their chosen values are a true reflection of their genuine beliefs and judgements, their purpose and principles are conscious decisions made from a clear understanding of their values and their actions are directed at the delivery of purpose in accordance with their principles. However, it is only straightforward if the effort has been put into the creation of a personal vision of being. Failing to bring design into consciousness runs the risk of being aimless and unscrupulous. Not knowing what you want to be is the surest way to not being it. What a person becomes is left to chance and the outcome is unknown. This carries with it the risk of a life of sadness, misery, disappointment and despair, the complete opposite of a good life.

A personal vision is not difficult to achieve, it does not require the involvement of anyone else although that can help. It does not require that the vision is written down or shared although that can help too. It does require some conscious effort and thought so that the vision becomes part of a person’s mindset. Once it is, living the vision will be mostly automatic and subconscious. All that is necessary is to check back occasionally, to confirm that life is on track with vision, and to consult the vision when difficult decisions have to be made about what to do and the way to do it. Sometimes, the vision will need to be modified, circumstances change, our environment changes, beliefs and judgements change with experience. A mindset is not the same as a set mind and failing to adapt is a sure way to fail at life.