Whatever you’re doing or creating, you need a firm foundation on which to build something that lasts. If you build your house on sand, it’ll be unstable and unsustainable as the sand erodes from beneath it.

Businesses often establish values, but if they don’t reflect the company and its people, they’re merely marketing jargon or words on a wall. When you define your own core values or those of your business, you will need to dig deep and really think about the kind of person you want to be—what you want to stand for. Envision your future self, perhaps a year from today, and where you and your business will be if you begin to live your core values today.

Working with Team GB, I took a clinical, pragmatic approach to values. I introduced a set of core values to the locker room and witnessed a genuine shift in behaviour. Furthermore, there was an obvious connection between the behavioural change and the results we achieved. This dramatic shift made everyone feel safe in the locker room—even guys who fought like cats and dogs every week. Having those values gave them common ground.

Because it worked so well for the team, I began to question my own values as a human being. I realised that sometimes we hold on to values that work against us, often subconsciously. For example, when I was a kid, I’d always look for the easiest route, or I’d not do my work, then try to make up excuses. That subconscious value left over from school of always looking for the easiest way was not helpful. It was destructive and limiting. I had to make a conscious effort to replace it with something that does serve me, such as, ‘Give every task 100 per cent of my effort, and never make excuses.’

My mum was an extremely optimistic person, and she encouraged me to pursue my dreams and play hockey. She instilled many values in me that later enabled me to be more resilient. However, she also let me do almost anything I wanted, and she didn’t pressure me to do things that I didn’t want to do. For example, if I didn’t want to go to school, I had nobody to tell me, ‘It’s not about whether or not you want to go, it’s about resilience, commitment, and long-term gain,’ so I was allowed to be lazy without correction. My dad was also very laid back, and while their relaxed parenting encouraged me to be a free thinker, which I am grateful for, it didn’t teach me the accountability, responsibility, or any other core values that every child needs.

This is another example of how past experiences shape us, and not always for the better. Because of my lack of parental discipline, now I make a concerted effort to instil the right values in my daughter. I help her develop a work ethic by letting her know she has to do the work. I instil in her that it’s not okay to make excuses or lie, and that she must be honest and speak the truth about the way she feels. I don’t just preach at her, however. I make an effort to be a role model for her, practising these values in all aspects of my life so she has a clear example to follow. Legacy isn’t just about what you leave behind financially; legacy is about the values you leave behind for future generations to live by.

The Four Foundations

This clear set of values makes up what I refer to as the Foundations. You can use them to guide your decisions and create sound, meaningful, sustainable change.

1. Do the Work.

2. No Excuses.

3. Always Ready.

4. Speak the Truth.

Simple, right? Implementing these foundations seems easy, but if the stories that shaped you don’t reflect them, you may have to make a conscious effort to instil the foundations into your current everyday behaviour. For some of us, the Foundations are ambitions we aim to live by, even though we may fail from time to time.

Think ahead to your future self and what your life will be like if you applied the foundations starting today: Do the workNo excusesAlways readySpeak the truth. If you lived your life by these, what could you achieve in just three months? In five years? You can likely achieve more than you realize.

For more advice on career performance, you can find The 4 Keys on Amazon.

Andrew Sillitoe is a business psychologist, author, and speaker. His innovative approach to leadership and work-life balance has earned him invitations to work with a range of global companies, including Pfizer, Nationwide, Virgin, and the BBC. Today Andrew runs the UK’s number-one training company for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to succeed in business, health, relationships, and mindset.

The 4 Keys on Amazon