Apr
21

What We Value

by  Jane Anderson  |  Self Leadership
What We Value

Who you are as a person is more important than what you do.

Have your values ever been challenged? Do you know what your values are?

When asked what our values are, we easily articulate what we believe our values to be. We want to live with integrity, be discerning, treat others the way we want to be treated, be authentic, work hard, always be learning, speak truth. How many of us have written our values and posted them on the wall in front of us as a reminder, or maybe full-out proclamation, of how we will live?

Open your browser, visit the library, talk with a colleague, meet with your leadership team – you will find no shortage of information on what values are, defining your values, how to live your values, and why values are central to your character. With this abundance of content available, why would anyone want to take three minutes to read one more article about values? Good point, but hang on. I’ve been thinking about values – the ones that have roots so deep we forget they are there.

Take the values challenge

We often equate values with the foundation of our character. You know? Nobody ever stops to admire a foundation. Does that seem messed up to you? We should admire a solid foundation, because, although hidden, it is what will hold a building up and sustain it for many years. Character is like that. Character is built from values. So, I have a little game called the Hide and Seek Values Challenge. Are you up for it? Take a moment and list a few of your values and then write a few words that describe the role those values play in what is most important to you. There are no right or wrong answers.

Challenge – Part 1

Here’s a sample from my challenge.

  • Value: Learning            I will spend an hour every day learning a specific topic.
  • Value: Initiative            I will write one article every week.
  • Value: Hard Work        I will work set hours each day, 5 days a week that can be invoiced
  • Value: Purposeful         I will do something each day that moves me toward my purpose

Now it’s your turn.  Go ahead. Try it. You might have 25 or more values, but limit yourself to just a few. You can play again later.

So here’s the Challenge – Part 2

Open your checkbook or online check register. Take a peek in your wallet or drawer where you store receipts. Believe me this exercise is not to place guilt over the $6 Starbucks coffees, but it has a significant purpose. Where we spend our money says a lot about where our values are. Are there any surprises related to your values in your financial picture?

Open your calendar or notebook or projects journal. This can be on your phone, computer, or a paper calendar where your appointments are documented. Where we spend our time speaks volumes about our values. Examine the calendar entries and appointments for the past few weeks. What does your calendar reveal about your values?

We expect our values to be the fuel behind our achievements, don’t we? Here’s the thing. In retrospect, we sometimes discover that living our values produces results quite different from what we expect.

Everything has a backstory

A few weeks ago I was having lunch at a café with a friend whom I have known since childhood but geographical distance has separated us for much of our lives. As we sat there solving the problems of the world, I glanced up to see a wooden plaque with hand-painted lettering scrawled across it. “A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.” On any other occasion, I might have read that sign on the wall without notice, but in that moment, I realized the significance of relationships and the valuable place they have in our life experience. In this moment I realized what I would have missed out on had I objected to this chance encounter because, “I simply didn’t have time for chit chat.”

A few hours earlier I had been lamenting to another friend, the ultimate truth-teller, about forty things I had yet to do over the next 72 hours. I was discouraged to see the list of items yet undone, and I was staring at the Saturday horizon just a few hours away. I complained that I was busy all week but nothing important got done and time, my non-renewable resource, was devoured by things of no value. What I discovered next was a surprise. Reconciling our values whether stated, perceived, or observed is tricky. My friend, the truth-teller, reminded me of the values challenge. Out of the 25 or more values at the foundation of our life and character, we don’t live them all simultaneously.

Who you are as a person is more important than what you do

If you had asked me to list my values on that day, I would have given you the textbook version. Work diligently every day. Act with integrity. Time with Family. Be a friend. Do what you say you will. Achieve goals. Study and learn. Read a knowledge-seeker’s book at least one hour every day. Write and journal every day. Read ten articles and comment on them. Encourage others. Do you see a trend here? Improve. Get better. Achieve.

There is nothing wrong with that – except . . .

This was my reality. When I opened my wallet and flipped my calendar pages back, I found these entries and hand-scrawled notes. Write at least one encouraging card every day. Chaperone choir event. Child care so moms can attend Bible Study. Prepare meals for shut-ins. Organize music for the music minister. Teach a toddler class. Help a previous co-worker with a stressful project. Review a website for a friend. Clean for “friend.” Take a 94 year old friend to lunch. Attend gym class with daughter so she will go. Pick up granddaughter from school – take her shopping for cheerleader stuff. Take a walk with a friend whose husband was diagnosed with cancer. Talk with a friend going through devastating family tragedy. Message friend whose mom died unexpectedly. Call sister-in-law.

Do you see the disparity between stated values and substantiated values? As I compared my list of things I intended to achieve with the list of activities I actually completed that week, I realized that I was living out the foundation of my values. Values that didn’t line up with business and work, but that were in perfect alignment with building relationships. In this season of my life, my real values are anchored to the foundation of my character, but I have the latitude to flex my hours and be less encumbered by unbending schedules.

Next time you feel like you aren’t accomplishing anything of value, get out your calendar, pop open your journal, take a look at your bank statement – then give yourself an honest assessment of how you have served others and made a difference because you poured into them from your values-rich foundation.

When have you lived according to your values? How did you feel? Tell me about it in the comments!
Photo Credit: Designer491/123RF

About The Author

Articles By jane-anderson
Jane’s professional experience is scattered across industries from financial services and insurance to engineering and manufacturing. Jane sees her background in writing and editing website content as the foundation to her current love of social media. Being an avid reader, meticulous note taker and lifelong learner has fostered her natural pursuit of sharing her world through writing book reviews and blog posts.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Mary C. Schaefer  |  21 Apr 2017  |  Reply

Jane, first, thank you for offering this great activity to get in touch with our values, how we intend to play them out, and reflect on how we actually do.

Dare I say it, I’m not so sure I see a big disparity between your stated values and substantiated values. I read: “Work diligently every day. Act with integrity. Time with Family. Be a friend. Do what you say you will,” and see those reflected in your comments on your calendar notes.

In training I have conducted we talk about the difference between values and aspirations. You are making me wonder if our values own us. We can’t help but express them. That is clear to me from the stories and experiences you share in this post, and from my own experience.

I can see how comparing myself to my aspirations might be disappointing. I know when my clients have a hard time operationalizing their aspirations into values – we may need to rethink them. Not that we shouldn’t have aspirations.

I like your final advice: “…give yourself an honest assessment of how you have served others and made a difference because you poured into them from your values-rich foundation.” This can be an encouraging and nourishing activity. Thank you.

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