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The need to experiment

Finding our Core, and the values, behaviours, beliefs and habits within it must be done in a way that is credible to us, and to others. Here are ten examples of ways we can find our Core:

  • Find something you love doing and ask yourself why you love it

  • Go somewhere you don’t know and where you won’t feel comfortable

  • Find a story in your heritage and figure out why it has stuck with you

  • Find moments of stress and unpick them

  • Keep digging

  • Do something you ‘don’t do’

  • Work out clashes in Core

  • Go to the place that best connects us with your Core

  • Establish our own stories

  • Keep looking outwards

Scroll down for further clarification on each

1. Find something you love doing and ask yourself why you love it

My father instilled in me a feeling that you should do something only if you could excel at it. This was not the case for me when it comes to painting, something I very much love doing. After many years of taking his advice on all things, I have finally decided that this was inherited Core, which got booted out when I realised it wasn’t really mine.

2. Go somewhere you don’t know and where you won’t feel comfortable

If we keep experiencing new things we will expose new things about ourselves. The more we discover about the world, the more we will discover about what’s really in our Core. Our frame of reference (ideas, assumptions, manners, habits, beliefs etc.) will be constantly challenged.

3. Find a story in your heritage and figure out why it has stuck with you

Khadija Rhoda, a student in South Africa says: ‘Find the stories and interpret them for yourself. Don’t repeat someone else’s version. I love to tell the one about my father, when he started studying at Johannesburg University. He found himself surrounded by students who had different religious beliefs to him who were racist towards him. Day after day, he went to his mentor, crying in desperation, wanting to go home. His mentor told him to carry a box of chocolates and, every time these people were offensive to him, he should give them a chocolate. My father thought this was the last thing he should do. His mentor told him to “kill them with kindness”. He said that it would confuse them and eventually, they would stop abusing him and might even start to respect him. It worked. For my father, it was a lesson in patience, humility and self-restraint.’ Khadija uses this story to help her deal with misgivings for marrying someone from a different culture.

4. Find moments of stress and unpick them

Robert Care, Principal, Arup says: ‘Discover what you are willing to do when no one else is watching. What will you do, in the moment? Stress will push you to your Core and you will find good things in there - and some things that are missing.’

5. Keep digging

As we keep working out what’s Core, we’ll find things we like and things we don’t. We will find things we didn’t know about, and we’ll find that, for every strength there’s a weakness we have to recognise and deal with.

6. Do something you ‘don’t do’

Just as it’s important to go somewhere we don’t usually go, its important to do something we don’t usually do. Now in his fifties, Peter Kulloi, Chair, Bátor Tábor Foundation says, ‘Our generation had to decide what it was going to know at too young an age. Decide to study something very new. It is good to go back and learn more. It reminds you how little you know, and excites you about how much more you could know.’

7. Work out clashes in Core

Sometimes we hit a situation when two bits of our Core compete head-on. Both are important to us, but only one can win. Working out how – and why – the clash can be resolved can be unsettling, but helpful. Maria Figueroa Kupcu’s explains: ‘I am ambitious, and want to have an impact in the world. This means that I am often not home until 7pm, and the kids need to eat at 5pm. How can I possibly be a decent mother, if I do not cook for my children? This is deep in my Core, and my Italian roots. How can I show my love? How can I pass on my cultural heritage? How can I nourish my kids, physically and emotionally, if I don’t eat with them?’

8. Go to the place that best connects us with our Core

For some people, place matters enormously. A place that provides peace, or the opposite: a place that stimulates us and helps us connect to what is Core. Not having a place is revealing too.

9. Establish our own stories

Heritage stories are important, but we shouldn’t live there. Michael Hastings, Global Head of Citizenship, KPMG put this very well to me: ‘As a black man in my 50s, I think young black people should do more to frame themselves in the future than the past. I think Black History Week was good in its time, but now we should move on. Stop obsessing about maintaining something from the past, and start claiming the future. It’s only the rear-view mirror: you can’t drive without it, but mainly you should be looking where you’re going.’

10. Keep looking outwards

Sometimes even things that we think are stuck in our Core do not have to be. There is a fine line between our Core and Flex and it’s important to keep putting ourselves in situations that challenge our Core over time.

How else can you find your Core?

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This article is from the free online course:

Developing Cultural Intelligence for Leadership

Common Purpose