It’s your change
I’ve used the word “change” very deliberately so far in this blog instead of words like “improvement,” and for good reason. Change is part of nature and it simply is. There’s no way around the fact that change will occur – whether we like it or not – but we do have the ability to heavily influence the types of change that occur in our lives.
Here’s where values come in.
Whether a particular change is better or worse than the status quo is a decision of values. Your change will – and must – reflect your values. I have two reasons for mentioning this right now, and so early in this blog:
- I’m not telling you what you SHOULD change. You must make that decision based on your own values. In fact, other people’s opinions are useless to sustain your changes.
- This is the formal call for you to do values work
doing values work
Values work? What do you even mean?!
This has two faces, really. Values work could be the process by which you discover what your values are, or if you are already in touch with your values, values work could entail analyzing your activities to determine how well they align with your particular system of values. I suppose these two faces of values work could be viewed as stages, but this process will not and should not be linear. It’s more of an ever-repeating cycle, like this:
I really love this simple model. There’s a great deal of scientific literature out there about organizational change; I spend quite a bit of time immersed in such material. It’s interesting how professional organizations struggle so much with matters of values despite having stated “core values” on their websites, pamphlets, marketing emails, business cards, on and on. Organizations really want to be “values-based” or “values-driven” but most of them don’t even know how to do that.
In the business world, it’s not uncommon for organizations’ actions to fail to reflect their values, which really just means that their values are NOT what they say they are. Sometimes this is done maliciously, sure, but I think the vast majority of the time organizations are just REALLY BAD at knowing their culture and aligning their values and actions. At ground level, organizations are just groups of people, so I find it’s pretty easy to relate business concepts to personal development. In fact, I believe we could realize many outstanding business outcomes if we first put our focus on personal development instead of organizational development. After we advance ourselves as individuals then we could advance our business organizations.
Growing the roots of change
In an abstract way, the Values – Action Alignment Model also reminds us that change is universal; it never ends. And when we choose to take ownership of change, powerful things will happen. We may choose to put some stakes in the ground to reflect specific goals and to assess progress, which is healthy, but the process of actually creating change in our lives is best thought of as a journey rather than a destination. This is not just some touchy-feely Woo Woo stuff. Really think about it. Is this not true within your experience? It is certainly true within my experience.
From my own lens, I see a world full of people who haven’t realized the value of living a journey-oriented life instead of a destination-oriented life. We’re out here chasing the latest gadgets and cars, striving for bigger pay checks so we can get more gadgets and cars, working for more impressive sounding titles, etc. It seems that many of us, perhaps especially in recent years, have sensed that this way of living is just not enough. It leaves us feeling empty and we’re always looking for that next best thing to distract us from the feeling that we really aren’t living a fulfilled life. While there’s nothing wrong with gadgets, cars, and career ambitions, we must realize that to acquire these things will not bring sustained happiness in and of themselves. We must recognize the values systems at work when we consider any change, even if it’s as simple as whether or not to buy the latest iPhone or to start a diet program, because it’s the underlying values and our ability to satisfy our values that will ultimately determine our success and/or happiness with the change.
You can consider this a formal introduction to the practice of self-reflection. To simply ask yourself “What are my values?” and “Do my actions reflect my values?” is a huge step forward on the personal development journey. And again, this is about you, what you value, and what you want. Don’t think of it as something you’re doing because someone else says you should (like your spouse, your parents, or your boss). There’s a time and place to incorporate feedback from others. This is not it. This is your invitation – your opportunity – to be authentic, to be vulnerable, and to make the discoveries that WILL change your life.
And celebrate each step on your journey. Celebrate the willingness to open your mind. Celebrate this experience and those to come because this is your journey and you’re doing great!