My Biggest Learning So Far

Why Matters!

Michaele and I have now delivered our Agile Best Self Workshop a dozen times at the writing of this post. Each time we have given it we seem to learn something new, helping us to deepen our understanding of the Agile Best Self Principles and Values and how they apply to each of our lives uniquely. We are also grateful for hearing stories from others about how this has helped them find their best selves. We are truly in a community of like-hearted people. Kind of like passing out dopamine shots for everyone!

The workshop has had a number of different types of deliveries. It was delivered as a live workshop, a graduate school seminar, corporate retreat, Open Space and an online webinar. Even after this healthy number of repetitions, we remain curious and are keenly interested in expanding the dialogue to help the Agile Best Self community support one another on our journeys. So, in the last few workshop deliveries, we have spent significantly more time in retrospective about the concept of a Personal Philosophy, a concept we learned when taking the Compete to Create course (entitled Finding Your Best) about a year ago. A Personal Philosophy is a word or phrase that describes how you uniquely see the world. In the Finding Your Best course, we were taken on a journey to try to articulate our own Personal Philosophies, which led to Michaele’s “Connector and Catalyst” and my “Be a Light” phrases.

We asked participants in our recent workshops to share whether or not they had such a word or phrase in their own lives. We estimate that 90 plus percent of participants did not have a personal philosophy. A small percentage of participants visibly brightened when we asked the question, as if we had sparked a great idea. Several participants told us that they would have no idea where to start. The task of defining a personal philosophy seemed overwhelming. The opportunity is now right in front of us to create the next workshop to share with the community — let’s help others figure out their own philosophy!

In my Agile Best Self journey so far, I can say the day I landed on the right words was an inflection point. This point was a catalyst that set a series of positive events. Eventually, a dozen little steps led to my partnership with Michaele, and the creation of the Agile Best Self concept, rooted in our core principle:

Agile Best Self Principle #1: Our highest priority is to be our best self and enable others to be their best selves.

As a quick preview, here’s the Abstract we submitted for an upcoming Agile conference:

Do you know what it means to be your best self? How about having a personal vision statement, mantra or philosophy? It all sounds pretty confusing and overwhelming. Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson (co founders of have experimented with multiple ways to help workshop participants find a path toward a personal north star. The resulting personal philosophy can be used to guide decisions and manage intent. The practice is simple – do more things that allow you to become your best self. The theory is hard – how do I define my personal best self philosophy? How do I define my personal ‘WHY?’

Why does having a personal philosophy matter?

Why is finding your why, or your philosophy so important? I think it helps set us up to separate who we are at our essence from what we do or have. It’s where true motivation lives. Because mine is very short (Be a Light), I find I can reference it in almost any situation — how can I be a light in this situation? Is this something that takes me further away from who I want to become? The answers are often pretty simple, and it allows me to redirect my energy more often to things that bring me joy — which is what happens when we experience being our why. Perfect application of this mindset is not the goal here — I still trip over this all the time. Think of it like your own version of Agile Best Self Moneyball — more time being authentic and doing things that bring joy is better (just like the Oakland Athletics figured out that getting on base more frequently yielded greater success for the team on the baseball diamond). I hope to keep progressing toward more time living my why, also known as our best self.

Another benefit I have noticed from identifying my personal philosophy is that it expresses what it is like to be authentically me. I often access my philosophy as I enter the various situations I face each day. For example, I will think about how I can be a light in the upcoming meeting, or how can I be a light when I arrive home after work? By doing this more regularly, I have found I have shown up in situations more authentically myself. This not only feels better, but the outcomes I have created for myself and others have been noticeably better (see some of the earlier posts) from my perspective. Science supports us here (three cheers for Agile Best Self Principle #9!) also — research has shown that living more authentically leads to greater happiness, positive emotions, and higher self-esteem. Sounds good to me!

Having a crisp personal philosophy that describes what it is like to be authentically me, has led ultimately to living more often in alignment, where my values are reflected in my behaviors, that lead to desired outcomes. Of course, there is no such thing as perfection, but if alignment happens more often than it did previously, that is my desired state. Agile Best Self is all about applying these principles to “turn up the good” to “be more” — that is the transformation that I have experienced as a result of achieving a crisp personal philosophy.

How do I create my own philosophy?

I was exposed to the concept of Personal Philosophy at a May 2017 conference, where I heard Dr. Michael Gervais speak. He explained not only why it is helpful to have one, but helped us get started. I spent some time right in the moment to create some early drafts. He cautioned that developing one’s Personal Philosophy is “hard, lonely work” that takes time and perseverance to ultimately get it right. It was reinforced when I took the Finding Your Best course, which happened about a year and a half later, when my philosophy finally got crystallized. I had created a number of early versions, and even “beta” tested them with others around me, but somehow they were just not quite right. The day I got there was amazing, like a light bulb flipped on in my brain.

Turns out there are countless ways to find your why, philosophy or vision. Simon Sinek has a great course (Finding Your Why), like the Compete to Create folks I described earlier, as well as many, many more out there. There are also a number of techniques Michaele and I in our day jobs as Agile coaches use with teams, that can very easily be applied to helping each of us figure out the phrase that uniquely works for each person. In the workshop, we will share many of these techniques which will hopefully help participants at least form a first cut that can be shared with others. We will also share a way to think about how to know when you have found the right word or phrase for you!

What do you think? Would you like to experience what it’s like to find your own philosophy? We are ready to help!

Copyright © 2018 – 2023 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

Published by Brian Hackerson

My personal philosophy is to be a light.

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