When the Going Gets Tough, Lean Into Your Values!
The pace of change and disruption that our communities, organizations and we as individuals have experienced over the past several months is unprecedented. And this type of unwanted, overwhelming change can stunt us in our paths. We think less clearly, and we may see threats that do not exist. Our perception gets narrower. We become more self-protective and tribal versus open and collaborative, and we may be tempted to focus on transactional tasks versus taking a step back and being more strategic.
Our normal biological response to change is to fight it. We seek balance and routine, and the more we can keep our lives stable, the better we feel. Unfortunately, if we keep holding on to the hope that things will go back to the way they were, we are setting ourselves up not just for disappointment but also failure. As we have seen, change is happening at a pace more rapid than ever before. Finding tools to adjust to and navigate this disruptive change is critical to both business and personal success.
Resilience and mental agility represent two skills that can help us shift our thinking to a more effective way of dealing with change. And both these skills are dependent on a crystal-clear awareness of, and focus on, our core values.
It is important to live our values when things are good. It is even more crucial to do so when the beliefs we hold dear are threatened. Our values shape our experience of the world. During highly disruptive times, values play a critical role in being our compass, how we choose to respond, what decisions we make, and how we navigate the tough challenges. In fact, our values are what make us resilient.
Therefore, it is important to be very clear about our values: naming them, knowing them, and living them. Leaning into our values to build agility and resilience during crisis means what Brené Brown calls taking values from “BS to Behavior.” It is not just about identifying our values, but leaning into those values day in day out. I propose the following steps to start leaning into and living into your values with strength and confidence:
Step 1: Clearly articulate your values
Take time to reflect deeply about what behaviors and actions you value most in yourself and others. Think about whether those define who you are at your best. There are lots of assessments available that you can use for this step. One of my favorite ones is a free character strengths assessment available through the VIA institute at: https://www.viacharacter.org/survey/account/register
Step 2: Once you have identified your core values, ask yourself the following questions for each of those values:
How does this value guide my actions and decisions?
What behaviors go against this value?
What support do I need from others to better honor this value?
What permission(s) do I need to give myself to fully lean into and live into this value?
What might it mean personally for me, my family, my organization, my community if I cannot honor this value?
Step 3: Based on your responses to the questions in Step 2 above, draft a plan of action for fully living into each of these values.
Ask yourself, how will you hold yourself accountable to the plan.
As you wait and watch for what is to come next, living each day in alignment with your values will give you the strength to resiliently navigate this new normal. One of my favorite quotes is by the famous psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, who said “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” When you are choosing your response, make sure it is the one that aligns with and lets you fully live into your values.