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Values are a Subconscious X Factor

You've heard it, seen it, felt it, said it even maybe... this year has been overwhelming... but it is also bursting with potential. We’ve been inundated with small yet promising change. We’ve acquired critical insights into hardship, observed our attitudes and behaviors, strategized our way out of every box, and made decisions only to make another one prompted by additional intel or context soon after. I have seen strong leaders in my community, small and big, speak out and speak up.


Are you feeling over #2020? Ready for the new year?



Many of us are fatigued by this unrelenting recent bombardment – in both our professional and personal lives. We're constantly aware and taking stock of the good stuff, the gratitude, the downturns, and the hardships. This year, discussions and experiences around human rights, health care and the pandemic, education and human development, the upcoming U.S. presidential election, and global equity and social justice have dominated and intuitively welcomed values to the forefront of discourse.


These issues always have been relevant to society and are a source of endless conversation, but not to the extent, depth and seriousness in which I find myself experiencing them this year. Is it just me? What conversations am I noticing myself having? How am I explaining things around me? Where is my attention most concentrated? Where do I invest my time and compassion?


I needed to channel this mental energy into something tangible. I participated in an activity in graduate school and this is a prime opportunity to dig back into it: values work. I invited my SPS colleagues to consider the influence and role of values during one of our meetings.


What do you value and why?

I've been asking myself what I make time for and why. To what extent am I in sync with my values? What do I even value and why? In what ways am I honoring and being faithful to those values that are important to me? Have I been neglecting things important to me?

Values guide our decision making, help us grow and help us reflect on what we find important and meaningful to us and about the world. Values are static, but they're also malleable. They're important because they guide our beliefs, attitudes and behavior.


We all have values, and it's not just people that have values; entities like businesses, companies and cultures have values too! What are yours? How do your values influence your work and your approach to it? More broadly, what value-based discussions are happening in the world around us right now?


Values guide our decision making, help us grow and help us reflect on what we find important and meaningful to us and about the world. Values are static, but they're also malleable. They're important because they guide our beliefs, attitudes and behavior.

Identifying your values


Values are everywhere, but oftentimes, we aren't aware of them or we haven't taken much time to think about them and label them. All of us have values, and if really put on the spot and asked - What are your values? - most of us could name a few.


With that being said, I invite you to try a values card sort activity (examples provided below). You'll be challenged to consider different values in order to rank and prioritize them. It can get interesting and complicated quickly!

Here are examples of questions to get you curious, get you started or use with a card sort:

  1. What is important to you in life?

  2. What type of story or behavior makes you angry?

  3. Does your professional role and/or career choice reflect your values?

  4. When do you feel most proud?

  5. Are you spending time on things that matter to you?


Some examples of personal values include: creativity, community, intelligence, justice and security. A person might have a few core values or could have a huge list of many different values.


Balancing values


Sometimes, two values that are important to us can conflict with one another. This can contribute to some discomfort or could even diminish our experience of fulfillment associated with those values. For example, I value the environment, but I don't have all of the resources available to me to recycle. Sometimes I'm upset by the amount of trash I am producing and contributing. Sometimes our values can be in-congruent with our environment, or with ourselves (e.g., our behavior).


Optimally, you live in accordance with your values, but time and energy are limited. So, in some cases, you have to know which values are most important or core to you, which involves prioritizing them and allocating your time to those values that have the greatest importance to you and potentially the biggest value added to your lived experience.


Living your values


Recognizing and prioritizing the values important to you can help you find balance in your schedule, bring awareness to your actions in daily interactions, and help you make decisions and set goals for the future. You can identify values for yourself and also as a group for your whole team at work to help keep you focused and grounded in held values! Practice your values and bring them into your routine. You can read a list of your values in the morning, take a picture and save it on your phone, set up reminder notifications throughout the day to prompt yourself, or reflect and analyze situations from the day with an awareness to the values being prioritized. If you’re interested in learning more, here are some values card sort activities :

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