The Resonance of Values
The marvelous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as by the answering. ~ David Whyte
Like the seasons, some themes are timeless. Every year, this is the time Bangalore’s black kites follow a deeply instinctual rhythm, keenly searching for twigs and branches, swooping in to pick up choice pieces to line nests hidden from view high up in the silver oaks. It is a mesmerising sight as February comes to a gentle end and we enter the breezy warmer days of March. I ask a tough question to myself about my commitment to write; instead of judgement, I feel the loving resonance of a value revealed: creativity. As grateful as I am to lean on my own values to power me up, I’m glad for the reminder, as always for me, from nature. Just as the black kite unfailingly returns to collects sturdy twigs to build its nest, we must return to the values that hold and guide us, strengthening our way into the world. In the past few weeks, the theme followed me into work, with teams and individuals I coach and into the website I’ve just launched, displaying a richness that I’ve sat with, curious about its layers. I’ve discovered that values have a language and a resonance far deeper than we realise. For me, values are a living doorway. When you declare them in language, you open that door. Whether you actually step in is another matter.
Our easiest access to core values is how we live them; how do you make it visible and felt for yourself every day? It can be an uncomfortable question, I’ve found. And yet, it’s so fundamental to how we live our lives and how we lead since values drive behaviour, helping us to make meaningful choices and decisions. A simple insight here is that if we don’t allow our values to satisfy deeper, basic needs, an inner conflict begins, spilling over to the outside as blame and judgement. There are four ways this conflict occurs: 1) when a value hasn’t been identified clearly you don’t know it’s in conflict but you know you’re unhappy or stressed about something; 2) when you embrace a collective value (e.g., a family/organisational value) that has little meaning for you and ends up clashing with one of your own; 3) when a value may have reached its sell-by date for you it used to be important but is no longer a priority and that makes you uneasy in some way; and 4) when a value is highlighted as a critical part of your work life (such as Purpose) but you have no idea how to get to it yet, which is perfectly normal but makes for much stress since you’ve judged yourself that you “should” be there already. At the organisational level, this shows up as a dissonance in culture, a misalignment of values, and a disconnection with goals, making accountability to values the first task for leadership to get back on track for sustainable growth. Making that a regular touchpoint is a good idea.
Which is where we begin too. To pivot with ease and have firm ground hold you as you move forward, first discover what’s important to you – these are your personal values. Reflect on how you live them and all the domains they show up. Ask yourself the tough questions since these are what will help to shape your life, work and relationships in ways that bring joy, contentment, purpose and peace. Feel the feels they give you. And don’t forget to hold them lightly. A value too tightly held may end up as a belief…and what is meant to have a rhythm and resonance for you can get suddenly lost. When there’s music in the flow, you’ll know.