What Are Your Pillars of Greatness?

Everyone has about five very specific things that provide the foundation of their lives. They are the five key things that matter most to you. And, they are the place you live your life from… whether you are aware of it or not.

Everyone has about five very specific things that provide the foundation of their life. I call these things “Pillars.” They are the five key things that matter most to you. And, they are the place you live your life from… whether you are aware of it or not.  When you deliberately focus your attention on your Pillars, your natural leadership ability—your Greatness—will begin to come show up effortlessly.

Pillars are not priorities. Unlike priorities that tend to have some type of order, or ranking, Pillars are all connected to each other.  Like legs on a table — when you pull one leg, the whole table moves — the same is true for Pillars. As you consistently make decisions in favor of one or more of your five Pillars, you begin to experience increased success in all of them.

(CAUTION: The opposite is also true. As you consistently ignore a Pillar, all the others begin to weaken.)

Nor are Pillars goals. They are not milestones to be achieved or tasks to be checked off. Your Pillars are the foundation of your life. Whatever your Pillars are is what your life becomes.

When you’re first examining this idea of Pillars, you might have no idea what your Pillars are. That’s okay! While Pillars don’t tend to change much over the course of your life, they can get “lost in the fog.”  That’s why it is so important to focus on identifying them and making sure you’re giving them appropriate attention.  When you begin to deliberately make decisions in favor of your Pillars, you’ll discover that great things start to happen.

Here’s an easy exercise that will get you started identifying your Pillars. Set a timer for eight minutes. On a piece of paper, write the phrase,

When my life is ideal I am _________________

And then finish that sentence as many times as you can for the entire eight minutes. Notice that this phrase is ‘my life’ – it’s not your job, it’s not your family, it’s not your relationship, it is your whole life.  (After all, you wouldn’t cut yourself in half and send one part to work and one part to spend time with your family, right?—though some of us have tried that.)

Once you have your list, you’ll narrow this list down to the top five Pillars for your life. This isn’t a perfect list! But you may start to see themes emerge. These themes may be around family, health, what you do for fun, what type of contribution you want to make in the world, etc.

There’s no wrong answer! Your Pillars are exactly what they are supposed to be for you – they are YOUR Pillars for a reason. It is no mistake that you love what you love and it is no mistake that you’re good at what you’re good at. It’s part of the Divine Design, or random universal structure, depending on your belief system, that was specifically created to point you toward that thing you are supposed to do in the world.

Don’t worry if, in the beginning, your Pillars look more like telephone poles. They’re not very elegant; they might be a little fuzzy and splintered.

That’s OK!  Start from where you are!

As you begin taking actions and making decisions that lead you toward your Pillars, they will become clearer. You’ll refine them. They may morph, they may shift — they’re designed to do this. It doesn’t mean you did it wrong! In fact, it means you are doing it exactly RIGHT.

Just know that when you’re living your life from the foundation created by your Pillars, wonderful things will open up. You’ll easily begin to see opportunities that weren’t there before. You’ll find that you get more of what you want and less of what you don’t.  And, most importantly, you’ll feel like you’re a whole person – not one person at the office and a completely different person at home.  And that creates Greatness In Government!

About the Author

Martha Wilson is a retired CIA Operations Officer, leadership instructor, transformational coach and the founder of Greatness In Government, a leadership and personal development firm that specializes in re-energizing mid-career government employees. Organizations that are struggling with complaints about bad leaders, discrimination, bullying and other symptoms of employee dissatisfaction hire her when they are ready for a fresh approach to leadership training. She also provides private coaching to high-potential government employees who have decided to assume responsibility for their own personal and professional development.