What you stand for will determine what you’ll stand for

In a purpose clarification process, we set out to express a fundamental tenet of who we are – our Big Audacious Meaning. Having this clarity about ourselves is invaluable.

But what may often get overlooked is who we decide we are not. An idea that can be powerful in its own right. In fact, it can help clear the path to that clarity. For that reason, there are times when we incorporate an exercise to verbalize who we are not. Sometimes it takes the form of declaring what we won’t do to help crystallize our ideals.


What we won't do can be inspiring

I love the aspirational nature of the purpose clarification process. A Big Audacious Meaning is inherently inspiring. Just look at the definition: the profound difference you make in a life, a community, or even the world. But, sometimes, declaring what we will not do can give us guidance on how to fulfill the aspiration. Let me give you an example. An aspirational ideal may be:

We will help people simplify their lives so they can get rid of the soul-crushing anxiety they struggle with.

That is an awesome ideal. Now, in conjunction with that, imagine asking, “What won’t we do?” We may get to something like:

We won’t complicate things.

These statements of who-we-are-not or what-we-will-not-stand-for help illustrate how we will pursue that aspiration. It's vital to illustrate what we will champion. But by declaring what we won't stand for, we generate a kind of esprit de corps. It's the kind of stuff that people rally around. That's why these statements often find a home in our Purpose Anthem. They have a manifesto-like quality that can make the anthem powerfully stirring.

It goes without saying that the desire to serve the aspirations of those we hope to engage should drive what we do. But what shouldn't go without saying is that it should also drive what we won’t do. Giving a voice to these things can be inspiring for everyone.

When we know what we stand for, we can confidently let everyone know what we won't stand for.