Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Trevor E S Smith | Words that define you

Published:Sunday | February 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM

"A man after my own heart."

"Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ."

"My true son in the faith."

Those six-word strings sum up the lives of David, Paul and Timothy. What six words could represent the essence of your life? Can we expand it to your family, a group to which you belong or to your organisation?

This reflection is inspired by a Bible study series being led by Professor David Tennant a member of St Andrew Church of Christ and associate dean (Graduate Studies), Faculty of Social Sciences, UWI.

The objective is to dig deep and remove the masks and debris, and to bring your life down to its core essence - what is it that defines you?



The intention is that at the personal level, this should be private. An introspection for your eyes. You might share it if you are comfortable, but you do not want to be distracted by thinking that others might see it or want to learn more about why those six words define you.

I decided to take up the challenge, and found real value as it helped me to move past potential distractions that could have impeded my productivity.

I have two versions, and the one that I used to keep me on even keel today was:

"Problems overcome, faith renewed. Optimistic vision!"



1. Is there one word that could classify broadly the thoughts that occupy your mind? Family, work, money, health?

2. What really excites you? Something that you aspire to have in your life?

3. Then the flip side. Is there a disappointment that still occupies space in your thoughts or has lingering impact?

4. Play around with one or two words that capture those three aspects of your being. That should lead to the creation of a six-word string that defines you.

Keep that string in focus as you go through life day by day, with one reservation. It might be that when you clear away the mask and get real with yourself, the words that come to the fore are not inspiring. You might be dwelling on disappointments and frustrations. Do not reject those words. However, I suggest that you create another string that you can go to for inspiration and to keep you focused on a brighter future. You want to face reality while transforming the future.

This exercise has the capacity to bring you in touch with who you are at your core, and then to make the necessary adjustments.




The six defining-words exercise is a practical, no-cost method of promoting vision alignment in families, groups and organisations.

1. Get medium-sized Post-it notes and flip chart paper.

2. Convene sessions in which members write a single word on each note that they think represents their family, group and organisation.

3. Post the words on the flip chart paper.

4. Encourage open discussion on each word.

5. Members move the words which resonate most with them to the top of the sheet in order of priority.

6. Fold the sheet and have it ready for sessions with other members, teams or groups, as necessary.

7. Repeat the process until a composite of the words is narrowed down to one or two rows at the top. Those rows will define the family, group and organisation from the perspective of its members.

8. Armed with that information, build on the benefits of the open discussions to increase harmony and agreement on a clearer, shared vision and how to get there.

You can also participate online. Register for the workshop and webinar and get the online access information here - Email:

- Trevor E S Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy home of the 'Certified Behavioural Coach' and '3-D Team Leader' international certifications.