“What was I thinking?”
Like me, you probably ask yourself that question every now and then.
It happens when you realize you have done something that does not reflect who you are. Perhaps you made a disparaging remark about someone, you made a snap judgment, or you made a quick decision that was an emotional reaction.
In other words, you did a lizard brain thing.
Then you cringe and wish you could take it back and do something differently.
If you do not want subconscious primitive impulses to guide your decisions, then you need something else to take their place as the driving force behind what you say and do. But what?
Consider your values.
Let's be clear
Do you have a personal “value statement?”
Most businesses have a value statement that tells their customers and staff what their core principles are. It helps define their brand. It builds trust.
A value statement is a powerful tool but only IF it is authentic. You may have noticed that’s a big IF. When a company behaves in ways that are not congruent with their stated values, it hurts their brand and leaves their customers confused and wondering who they really are.
Likewise, we as individuals need to be clear about our own values if we want people to know who we are, to trust us, and to like us. Unfortunately, most of us rarely take the time to think deeply about what our values really are.
Clarity of values has a number of benefits:
- It allows you to be more consistent in your decisions and actions.
- It gives you confidence.
- It allows you to act independently instead of relying on direction from someone else.
- It makes it easier to recognize when there is a conflict between your values and your organization.
Want to learn more about improving your thinking and decision making?
How do you determine your values? One method is to think about someone you respect and admire. It could be a famous leader or historical figure, or someone you know personally.
For me, the three people in the first picture fit the bill. (The middle picture is my dad, someone I certainly admire and respect).
Once you have someone in mind, consider what it is about them that makes you feel that way. Is it their integrity? Their resilience? Their faith? Or perhaps you know them as kind or reliable or able to handle adversity with class.
Then think about which of those traits you find most important that you would like to emulate. What do you want people to think of when they think of you?
You can also look up the value statements of organizations you admire. Do their values resonate with you? Can you adopt those values at a personal level?
For examples of some commonly named values, you can also simply do an online search for phrases such as “examples of personal values” or “core values list."
Make a list of at least three of your top values in order of importance to you. WRITE THEM DOWN! This is vital so that you can reference them, remember them, use them, and review them periodically. You may even adjust the list over time as you learn and grow. (You do have a growth mindset, don’t you?)
Also important is to be specific. Describe what you mean when you claim to value, say, honesty. Specificity equals clarity.
Finally, tell your value statement to someone else. A friend, your spouse, your family. Use social media to tell the world. Expressing your values to others is a great motivator in enabling you to consistently commit to those values.
Be true to your values
A personal value statement is like any piece of knowledge or wisdom - it is a worthless appendage UNLESS you apply it to your life and your decision making. Keep your values top of mind and let them be your high-level guide.
Otherwise, you may just find that primitive lizard in your head is guiding you instead.
Think well and be well!
- Steve Haffner