WAIT A SECOND! Have you read “Finding Your Values, Part 1?” If not, click here. We highly recommend taking the time to read and process it before moving on to this blog, so that your values exploration is as effective and meaningful as possible.
How To Read This Blog
Our last blog made the argument that identifying your organization’s core values (or your personal core values!) is an exercise that reaps serious benefits – from providing a roadmap during tough times to identifying the right kind of people to partner with or hire.
This week, we’ll lay out the process of identifying and articulating those values. You’ll want to break out a pen and paper or your preferred note-taking app so you can jot ideas down as you go.
As you go through each of the three activities below, pay attention to values-words that come up in your answers. If you can, grab a friend and go through this together. It is often easier for other people to identify the values in your answers than it is to do it for ourselves. Alternatively, follow along to our recent podcast episode, in which we walk through this process step-by-step.
Step 1: Pivotal Moment
Every organization and every person has experienced plenty of pivotal moments. A pivotal moment is a time in your life where everything changed; a moment that clarified your view of the world, changed the direction of your work or opened up a brand new line of thinking. Pivotal moments can be almost anything: from the birth of a child, to shuttering your business, to reaching a personal milestone. Often, they occur amidst the highest highs or the lowest lows, but sometimes they happen in a moment that seems mundane but has a monumental impact.
Think of a pivotal moment in your life or your organization’s history. After reflecting on it, answer this question:
What changed in your thinking or behavior because of this pivotal moment?
Note the answer and move on to step 2.
Step 2: Important Choice
Think of a choice that you made for yourself or your organization in the past 18 months, and describe it. It doesn’t have to be a huge, significant choice – write down whatever comes to mind. Then, write down why you made that choice in ten words or less.
Step 3: Reaction
Now, bring to mind movies, TV shows, and books you’ve taken in over the years. Identify one that you had a very strong reaction to – something that fired you up or made you sob. It can be a positive or negative emotion, as long as it was so strong that you remember it. Now think about what was it – specifically – that excited such a strong reaction at the time. What was it that made you laugh, cry or irate?
The reason this is so important comes back to neuroscience. The brain’s limbic system, which deals with emotion and memory, doesn’t do a particularly good job of differentiating fiction and reality. When you see or imagine something, it reacts as if it were happening right in front of you; and so that visceral reaction is a useful indicator of what is truly important to you.
Step 4: Try It On for Size
At this point, you’ll have a few notes.
- What did your pivotal moment change in your thinking or behavior?
- Why did you make a personal choice in the last 18 months?
- Why did you react so strongly to that book, movie or TV show?
Look at your notes and play detective: What do these examples tell you about what matters in your life and the core values that underpin those things? For example, perhaps movies about sports heroes make you sob because of the personal sacrifice they make to achieve their best. You might hypothesize that this reveals that personal drive or achievement is a core value you hold.
You should end up with a short list of potential values in your notes. Now, it’s time to try them on for size. Journal about them. Process them in conversation with a trusted friend or colleague. Test them against each other to find the most important ones. Come back to other pivotal moments and choices you’ve made and see if these values are consistent with your conclusions from those times.
Step 5: Behaviors
Where values can be truly transformational in the life of you or your organization is when you articulate the daily behaviors that extend from each of your core values.
As you consider your core values, think about the specific behaviors that would extend from each one. For example, if you’re considering “Inclusivity” as an organizational value, you may adjust your hiring process to attract more diverse applicants, or set up an inclusivity committee in your workplace.
Identify four or five behaviors for each value, and build them out as they would exist as daily practices.
Step 6: Revisit
Come back to your core values! Frame them, write them on sticky notes and put them on your bathroom mirror, make them your desktop background – whatever it takes to ensure that they stay front of mind on a daily basis. Identifying values is a meaningful, careful process, and it’s more than okay to develop them over time, or even change them after a while. As long as you approach this process with honesty, you can’t go wrong.
We’ll leave you with a quote from professional coach and habits expert Chesa Mendez, who was a recent guest of the How to Change the World Podcast, wherein she explored and identified her personal core values using this process. Chesa said each value is “unique to you, which makes it true, which means it can’t be wrong.” Being able to articulate your core values is crucial to creating meaningful impact in the world. When they’re crafted intentionally and precisely for you or your organization, there is infinite power in both the process and the result.