Frederic Stell


Check Your Core and Find Your Purpose

        In 1992, Lance Armstrong entered his first professional bicycle race, the Classico San Sebastian in Italy. He finished last, with a full 27-minute lag time behind the winner. That grueling experience may well have ended his career. But it didn’t. His unwavering persistence and resolve transformed that experience into a launching pad that motivated him toward what has become one of the most astounding athletic careers of all time.

        From very early on in his life, competitiveness and tenacity seemed to be a trademark of Lance’s. As he put it himself, “I hate losing at anything, whether it be cards, golf, or whatever.” Already at 13, his fierce will to succeed had driven him to win the Iron Kids Triathlon. And it was his ultimate determination that allowed him to produce win after win and to roar into 1996 as the top ranked cyclist in the world.

        But it was with the ultimate race, the race to save his life, that Lance showed the most amazing will and single-mindedness. Lance was just four months shy of his 25th birthday when he was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer, which had spread to his lungs and brain. He faced this challenge like all others he had faced—head on. He opted for undergoing some of the most aggressive surgery and chemotherapy, and every day fought the debilitating symptoms of the disease and its treatment.

        As soon as the chemotherapy began to work, he allowed his thoughts to return to racing. Only five months after his diagnosis, and still uncertain about his future, he began training again. Despite the uncertainty weighing on his life, getting back in the saddle was the most important thing to him. Early on in his life, he had discovered, as he states, that he was “born to race bikes.”

        Three years after his diagnosis, in 1999, Lance achieved the impossible. He won the Tour de France, one of the most physically and psychologically demanding sporting events in the world. He went on to win the Tour an unprecedented seven years in a row, becoming not only an example of elite athletic performance, but also one of great human courage and perseverance. Lance is an example of triumph of the spirit who will leave an amazing mark in our human history by living his life purpose.

        Competitiveness and tenacity are two aspects of Lance’s personality that have manifested themselves throughout his life, across many contexts. They are what David Gordon, Neuro Linguistic Programing developer and author, calls core attributes. As a gifted athlete, Lance’s core attributes led him to live his life purpose, racing bikes.

        Like Lance, we all have core attributes that stir us toward living our life purpose. The core attributes are inherent parts of our life purpose because they are a big part of who we are and how we act in the world. Becoming aware of our core attributes allows us to start putting together our life purpose puzzle. True to what was important to him and his core attributes, Lance was already living his life purpose before cancer. His health misfortune brought him a new level of awareness, which is best captured by his own words: “It’s ironic, I used to ride my bike to make a living. Now I live so that I can ride.”

        So, how do you get to your core and find your core attributes?

        Here are a few recommendations inspired by David Gordon’s work.  For best results, write down what comes up for you as you’re following these instructions, or have a friend listen to your responses and capture them for you.

  1. List the aspects of yourself (attributes) that are true in almost any situation across contexts and across time. It is usually helpful to ask yourself:  “What kind of person am I?”  Examples of answer: “I am a nurturing person”; “I am a passionate person”; “I am a respectful person”.

  2. For each attribute describe what it means to you to be this kind of person.  For example, for me “being a respectful person” means to do the best I can to not hurt anybody physically or psychologically.

  3. Test your findings (attributes) to see if they are really core attributes by looking for counter examples (that is, finding an experience you had that would suggest that you actually are not this kind of person).  Following the same example, what comes to mind is that I can find several situations where I said something somebody took offense to, or where I have literally stepped on somebody’s toes.

  • If you can’t find any counter examples, then there is no doubt, you are a [attribute] person.

  • If you do find a counter example, check whether you were still (a) manifesting this attribute internally but didn’t get to express it in the outside world, or (b) whether you were bothered by the fact that you could express that attribute. If either of these two scenarios is true, then you are still a [attribute] person. If your counter example doesn’t fall into one of these two scenarios, then it is probable that this specific attribute is a quality that you know how to manifest, but it is not a core attribute.
    Going through my many potential counterexamples, I realize that  I either really did do the best I could in those moments  which would then make these counterexamples invalid, or if I didn’t do the best I could then I really felt bad about it. So either way, I am still in my mind a respectful person.

        In going through your search for core attributes, it is important to remember that what you are eliciting is your perception of yourself and what is at your core, rather than what other people think of you.  Discovering your life purpose is about exploring yourself and finding your own truth.

        Lance’s core attributes of competitiveness and tenacity have been clearly the backbone of his purpose “racing bikes”. Now that you know your core attributes, you can continue your journey of life-purpose discovery by looking at what experiences are fulfilling to you and how they are an expression of your core attributes.


Portions of this article are extracted from the book A Guide to Getting It: Passion and Purpose, Frederic Stell Co-Author.


Frederic Stell, MBA is a certified trainer of NLP, business consultant, seminar leader and personal coach. In his work, he combines NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis with his more than a decade of business experience coaching and mentoring individuals. Co-Author of the book A Guide to Getting It: Passion and Purpose, he is also the president and founder of the Life Purpose Forum, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing resources to the public for the discovery and conversion of life purpose. Feel free to contact Frederic through email or visit his website at


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