In my work with nonprofit organizations, I often hear the term “values” thrown around as part of a mission statement, or I’ll see it on a poster on a wall. I hear people talk about a concept of shared values when hiring or forming strategic partnerships. I see it in emails when asking for donations or making a statement about a recent event. Values are definitely important to an organization.
But what about you as an individual? What are your values? And how do those values show up in your life?
For me, my core values are curiosity, excellence, passion, and authenticity (note – I often refer to these as my “core business values,” but the more that I lean into them, the more I recognize that they are actually my “core life values”).
Recognizing that words means different things to different people, I’ve developed the following wording to explain what I mean by each of these terms:
I believe that approaching the world with wonder and asking questions to explore and understand while embodying flexibility and a growth mindset leads to new ideas and new ways of doing things.
I believe that committing to the highest standards and showing dedication and accountability allows for addressing challenges and achieving ambitious goals in order to truly make a difference.
I believe that engaging in all things with a sense of positive energy and enthusiasm opens the room for inspiration, creativity, and joy.
I believe that showing up each day with a balance of courage and vulnerability enables an honest, safe environment where everyone can be their best true selves.
In her book, Dare to Lead, Brene Brown dedicates a chapter to what she calls “Living into Our Values.” She explains, “Living our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We talk our talk – we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs.”
So what does “living into my values” look like for me?
I bring these values with me every day and into every situation. Brown defines a value as “a way of being that we hold most important,” and this really resonates with me. These values are what I hold most important, and I do take care that my intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align.
People who know me know that I am an overthinker and ask a lot of questions to get as much information and clarity as I possibly can. I am constantly reading and delving deeply into different subject areas in order to better understand how the world works. While I do hold strong convictions, I am also open to new information and new ways of doing things (especially if they are backed by research). I know that is the only way I can grow. So in a meeting, I will ask everyone to take a step back and examine our goals. I will want to read four books and 13 articles about a new subject before having a full discussion about it. And I will be the person who asks deep questions, seemingly out of nowhere, because I genuinely want to know what you think.
I also set incredibly high standards for myself from an internal place of motivation and accountability. I am goal-oriented and deeply believe that pretty much anything is possible – it’s just a matter of figuring out how and then making it happen. So I will respond to emails promptly, meet any deadline that is set, and will virtually always follow through with what I say I will do. I will constantly be pushing and wondering how something could be done differently. And while I don’t impose any of the standards on others, I know I thrive in situations where I feel supported and pushed by those around me.
I genuinely enjoy my life. I love the work in which I am engaged. I believe that we get out of the universe what we put into it, especially when it comes to energy. So I maintain a daily intention and gratitude journal, and I give myself time (usually during a hike or yoga) to just be and give my mind the space it needs to process and get creative. I sometimes start meetings or classes with a comic that makes me laugh. And I may often be found having my own little dance party to 90’s music while driving (bonus points if I get to embarrass my kids while doing so).
My most important job is to be the best version of myself and keep working towards the next best version of myself (and give myself grace when that isn’t possible on a given day). I know that I won’t connect with every person. I know that I will make mistakes. I know that sometimes it’s scary to put myself out there as me, but it feels so much better than trying to be someone I am not. So I will speak up in meetings when I feel I have something to say. I will take calculated risks when they feel right. I will give direct and honest feedback to those around me, and I will welcome your feedback as long as it comes from an authentic place as well.
This is how I live into my values.
My questions to you are as follows:
What are your values?
What do those values actually mean to you?
How are you living into your values?
In my work with Sarah Rubinson Consulting and Contracting, I engage leaders in living into their values in order to accomplish goals, overcome challenges, and create effective and joyful environments where everyone flourishes. This work is not easy, which is why naming and living into our values is a critical first step. As Brown states, “If we do not have clarity of values, if we do not have anywhere else to look or focus, if we don’t have that light up above to remind us why we’re there, the cynics and the critics can bring us to our knees.”