Are you living in conscious alignment with your values? Do they guide you, sure and true, through inevitable ups and down?
I recently talked with Beth Buelow, founder of The Introvert Entrepreneur, about this very thing. Kicking off our Seattle Un-Networking event on the same topic (Jan. 10th with details here), Beth offered insight into how your values can center and hold you steady. I’m happy to share with you her thoughts.
Lynn: I meet so many women who aren’t fully aware of their own values. I suspect this is because values are so basic to us, we don’t recognize them half the time! Do you see this in your own work and if so, what’s your take on it?
Beth: I think there’s truth to that. We often don’t think about our values until they’re challenged. And then, sometimes in the disorienting moments of the challenge, we forget to draw on those values for guidance. That’s one of the most important functions values serve: to give us a sense of our true north and to remind of us of our “why.”
There’s a fabulous TEDx Talk by Simon Sinek that outlines the basic concepts in his book, “Start With Why.” We spend so much time focusing on what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it, that why we’re doing it defaults to certain assumptions, if it’s considered at all. This can lead to confusion, overwhelm and making decisions based on more superficial influences. If we are living in conscious alignment with our values, we’re also living our “why.”
My top three core values are freedom, curiosity and authenticity. I’ve discerned those values and personally defined them, and now I build my business around them. In this way, my values guide me through not only challenges, but opportunities as well. Keeping them top-of-mind isn’t always easy; there was an intentional process out of which they emerged, which helped me embody them more fully. But I still have to have sprinkle my space with regular reminders – something as simple as taping the words up on my wall helps!
Lynn: Nice, Beth – sprinkling your space with reminders! I need those, too. Say more about what an intentional process looks like for us in discerning and defining our own values.
Beth: This process typically includes some time in conversation, doing some visualizations and engaging in other exercises that tap into key words and phrases that come from our heart, not our head. Time in reflection is important; we have to be able to sift through the first layer of “should” values, the ones placed there by outside influences.
Here’s an example: during a retreat I led a few years ago, several of the women were struggling with the value of family. Since they had children, it should be at the top of the list, right? They thought that if they didn’t include family as a core value, they were saying it wasn’t important to them. This was far from true! Rather, their top values might provide critical support other values. For instance, core values of patience, security and balance can provide the foundation upon which we honor our value of family.
Every coaching client I work with goes through a values exercise. I work from a list of more than 175 values and have the client go through and select every value that resonates. We then drill down the list until we have our top four. Going from 175+ to four isn’t easy, but it’s powerful and clarifying.
We then define each of those values, determine where they are showing up and where they’re not, then use that information as a way to discern priorities. If you want to start the process on your own, see the Values List here.
Lynn: Can you give an example from you own life when a core value helped you make a tough decision?
Beth: A few years ago, I was presented with an opportunity to be part of an innovative collaborative project. It involved people I cared about and would increase my capacity to serve more clients. My earliest reaction to the proposal was “That’s a no brainer! Sign me up!” But as conversations became more detailed, something wasn’t sitting right. I had a feeling of impending disaster, actually. This bothered me, since I’d gone into the process thinking that I’d be foolish to pass it up.
So I spent time thinking through the situation and trying to put my finger on what was bugging me. Then it hit me: freedom. The opportunity was going to violate my core value of freedom. Not just in that I’d be partnering with others and therefore no longer be completely independent. Because I’d taken time to determine what freedom looked, felt and sounded like to me, I was able to notice that my creative and intellectual freedom might be compromised if I said yes. That was too high a price to pay.
Once I pinpointed the issue, it was relatively easy to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” And I did so with no regrets or second-guessing. Having put one of my core values to the test, I am now that much clearer on the role it plays in my success.
Again, author, speaker and founder of the The Introvert Entrepreneur, Beth Buelow joins us at Seattle Un-Networking on Jan. 10. She is also leading our Jan. 25-26 workshop, Discover Your Vision for Your Business, in Tacoma WA.
Your turn, Power Chick!
What are your top values? Are you consciously aligning your business with one or more? Share in the comments below. – Lynn