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Do you have a credo?

How do you define what you believe in life? What is your credo?

5 min read



Susan Fowler

My dear friend and colleague Phil has a zest for life that is unmatched. He is an organizational consultant, facilitator, minister and entrepreneur who also has a passion for practicing the skill of motivation. But his entire life changed in an instant when he almost died from a severe and sudden brain aneurysm.

After multiple surgeries and procedures, Phil endured months of relearning to walk, talk and basically function. Then, one day, Phil recounts his doctor’s words: “’Mr. Reynolds, there is a 5% chance a newly discovered aneurysm will burst before your next scheduled surgery.’”

As the doctor was speaking, Phil could only think about the weeks in the hospital when his first aneurysm burst. Not wanting a repeat experience, he replied, “Well, that means there is a 95% chance it won’t burst! I will choose to live in the 95%.”

Phil realized he had to shift his motivational outlook day to day to flourish in the 95%. One of the first actions he took was to craft a life credo. You might want to follow Phil’s example. The word credo is Latin for “I believe.” A personal credo is a statement of your core beliefs, or guiding principles, and your intentions for integrating them into your everyday life.

Phil’s credo:

  • I choose to always act with a purpose. When you are not certain about the time you have left, you want to be sure that what you are doing is making a difference. Every action has some layer of intentionality behind it, whether it’s taking my wife to dinner or tackling difficult issues with clients.
  • I choose to write a daily gratitude list. Every day has something to be grateful for. Even on days when I feel physically terrible, I take time to reflect on the people, experiences and things for which I am grateful. This gives me some perspective on who I am and the people who’ve changed me; it allows me, through the pain of my illness, to be grateful.
  • I choose to send thank-you cards or emails. I take time to say “Thank you!” to the people who have made a difference in my life. Writing a physical note helps me reflect on the positive. As a bonus, it gives that person a positive emotion for their day.
  • I choose to stop complaining. Complaining led me to negative thinking, which impacted not only my state of mind but my emotions. I must take ownership of my thoughts and actions to maintain my level of energy and focus. Complaining pro-duces no solutions and solves no problems.
  • I choose to learn something new every day. I read. A lot. I learn from my participants in workshops. I have mentors who answer my questions. I listen to my kids!

Phil’s credo defines Phil in a nutshell. I am pleased, but not surprised, to report that living in the 95% during multiple operations and rigorous rehab, Phil is back to 100%, working with clients as a consultant and life coach and flying across the country teaching workshops on topics he knows from firsthand experience, such as self leadership and trust.

Craft your own credo

Notice how Phil’s credo spells out how he will create choice, connection and competence in his life — the three psychological needs required to generate optimal motivation and promote thriving.

To create an optimally motivating credo to guide your everyday life or help you shift when you feel overwhelmed by a situation, external distractions or pressure, include actions that create choice, connection and competence, such as:

I create choice:

  • I choose how I wake up and live my life every day.
  • My choices reflect my values and who I truly am.

I create connection:

  • What I do to others, I do to myself.
  • My work is meaningful and contributes to a greater good.

I create competence:

  • I consciously improve my skills because doing what I do well is one of the ways I contribute to others.
  • By learning something new each day, I spark wisdom, progress and change.

Phil acknowledges that we all have issues that might keep us from being who we want to be, such as anger, impatience, jealousy, pessimism, indifference, resentment and pride, just to name a few.

By creating a credo, “mastering my motivation to live in the 95% with choice, connection and competence improved my well-being and, I’m convinced, helped me heal,” Phil says. “But more importantly, the quality of my motivation helped the quality of life for my family and close friends who went through this challenge with me every step of the way.”


Susan Fowler implores leaders to stop trying to motivate people and is on a mission to help others learn the skill of motivation. In her latest book, “Master Your Motivation: Three Scientific Truths for Achieving Your Goals,” due out in June, she helps individuals master their own motivation, achieve their goals and flourish as they succeed. She is also the author of bylined articles, peer-reviewed research and eight books, including the best-selling “Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager” with Ken Blanchard and “Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … And What Does: The New Science of Leading, Engaging, and Energizing.” Tens of thousands of people worldwide have learned from her ideas through training programs, such as the Self Leadership and Optimal Motivation product lines. For more information, visit

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