This spring, I am taking part in a four-month coaching workshop for women leaders in Atlanta called Women on the Edge. It is an annual offering from InwardBound Center for Nonprofit Leadership, where I am a new board member. When I found out Brene Brown’s work inspires much of the curriculum, it was a no-brainer to sign up. Her research on courage and vulnerability has guided me, both personally and professionally, along the uncharted path of building my business. (If you’re not familiar with Brene Brown, start with this podcast.)
Our small group consists of fifteen participants and two leadership coaches. On our first day together, we did an exercise called Honoring Our Values, which was especially eye-opening for me. Most of us have a clear sense of morality and what it means to uphold our personal integrity. We are told since childhood to do unto others, not to lie, steal, hurt, or harm. We value kindness, honesty, generosity, etc. This is not what our exercise was about. We were asked to come up with a list of our top five (and only five) personal values. Our coaches defined these values as:
1) who we are at the core
2) what we hold most dear and
3) what we suffer most from compromising
We were given a list of roughly seventy words and asked to circle five. (Making up our own was perfectly acceptable too.) I narrowed mine down to nine in less than three minutes. It took me another two weeks to land on my top five values.
Connection. Creativity. Beauty. Fun. Meaning.
When it comes down to it, these are the things that light me up – in my relationships, my career, and life overall. Naming these as my driving values has been more empowering than I ever could have imagined. At work, I am prioritizing tasks that align with my values and delegating those that don’t. I am protecting the time I have to be creative so as to not interrupt the flow or lessen the energy it brings me. If I have to do something I don’t enjoy, I think about how I can work my values into the experience. For example, when cleaning the house I try to make it fun by turning up the music and focusing on making my space more beautiful. In big ways and small, I am tuning my intentions toward what matters most.
Brene Brown says, “If we own the story then we can write the ending.” I want mine to be a story of great joy and richness – filled with moments and micro-moments of connection, creativity, beauty, fun, and meaning. Articulating my personal values has opened more space to experience and express all of the things that light me up.