One of the many reasons I love teaching is I realize that until I can explain something clearly to a bright group of people, I really don’t understand it as well as I think I do. Also, I love the questions students ask because they force me to really make things clear to them and myself.

A few weeks ago while I was discussing the critical importance of SELF REFLECTION and of taking the time to clearly understand your VALUES, a student asked: But how do you know what your VALUES are?

After taking some time to reflect, I realized that this was not only a great question, but it may be at the core of one of the major issues with which we are struggling as a country. Here’s what I mean:

I think there is a big difference between VALUES and PREFERENCES. I may have a preference for people not swearing and using four-letter words in the office (or anywhere, for that matter), but if they do, I don’t think they would be immediately fired. Values are very different. As I explained to the student, I believe values are non-negotiable and are never compromised. If they are negotiable or compromised, how can you claim that they are values? Also, if the values only apply to certain people in certain situations, how can you explain them to the entire organization?

You may be thinking this seems obvious, but look at what is occurring all around us. You have to look no further than the recent Alabama senate race. I read several statements from people who believed that one of the candidates was guilty of sexual harassment. Yet, they still voted for him because they felt the Republicans could not afford to lose the Alabama Senate seat. Really!? I can understand if they didn’t believe the person was guilty of sexual harassment, but to BELIEVE the person was guilty but still rationalize to yourself that he should be elected anyway??

If we say that sexual harassment is wrong and will not be tolerated, why would there be an exception for anyone? Even for someone who is an exceptional performer or senior officer? Are we saying that sexual harassment is generally wrong, but it is okay if you are consistently 130% to plan or the CEO of the company or a candidate for Senate in a tight race? Unfortunately, for some people their stated values are negotiable and can be compromised, and that is a very slippery slope to go down.

One of the reasons I try to get students and executives alike to slow down and take the time to self reflect is to enable them to really determine what their values are and apply them consistently.

Okay, so as a life-long optimist, here’s my request: Turn off your smartphones and social media, get someplace quiet by yourself or with someone whose values and sense of purpose you admire, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my values? (are they non-negotiable and will not be compromised?)
  • What is my purpose?
  • What do I stand for?
  • What really matters?

Write your answers down if possible and review them from time to time. Taking the time to address these questions will position you well in your life and personal leadership journey.

I truly believe if more people answered these questions, it would make our community, our country, and our world a better place!!!

I am always interested in your thoughts and feedback!
Have a great rest of the week!


Featured photo by Himesh Kumar Behera on Unsplash