Find your deep values, (re)gain abundance
Recently, I’ve felt stuck. Although things were on the upswing in my personal life, I saw my professional options becoming scarce. I had big stuff in mind for the long-term, but from my perspective no immediate next step stood out as being really great. So I decided to look up the literature of companies I thought made good decisions.
In the circles of design agencies, Teehan+Lax was on the rise. They’ve been winning over some big clients and they were on a prosperous streak. And yet, some long-time team members were starting to leave. How can things go that well if your best people are quitting the company? It turns out, they were leaving because they felt Teehan+Lax no longer stood for anything.
Teehan+Lax turned to some friends for help to fix their employee attrition problem. They were recommended the exercise called Mountains and Valleys, which helps you find your deep values. So I followed it too, and here’s how it works.
The Mountains and Valleys exercise makes you list the most significant moments in your life, the ones that stand out as influential – good or bad. From each moment – from each episode of your life – you draw a list of values that were present (represented) and values that were missing (threatened). You’ll get a long list of values that you can add to and edit down to your core, deep values.
I chose to go further with the exercise and listed sub-values and counter-values. Sub-values added other words to get a clearer picture of what each value meant for me. Counter-values were the opposite words, the things I stood against.
It felt great to pin down that list – freeing! It made me understand why I felt so alienated in the bottom of those valleys (the worst moments), and why I felt such abundance at the top of those mountains (the best moments).
And over the months after finding that list, it became clear that I suddenly had new options, that I could steer the elements of my life back to new heights.
Steering to abundance
It became fun to check each part of my life for a values fit.
Regarding relationships, I had already done the exercise of figuring out my inner circle and my outer circle, so I checked each person to see where we matched, and where we diverged; who exercised values in common with me and who exercised my counter-values.
Whoa! Some of my friends exhibit some of my counter-values! What’s the deal? Why am I actively entertaining these relations? The thought of cutting them off came up, but that felt childish to me; I knew there were mature ways to renegotiate expectations. So I set off to start the process and have those important discussions.
Then I looked at the activities and events I take part in, and was surprised at how they fit my values. I spend a lot of time in faith-community-type events and it just seemed a no-brainer why I did.
Then there was my place of employment. It hit me that my values were scarcely represented there, and yet they were, with a few keen folks, whom I naturally sought and connected with over the years. It’s no wonder I’ve been fascinated with cultural change! Still, this was a big realization.
So knowing all this, I’m seeking out the activities, places and people that are a better fit, and that gives me some new options to regain abundance.
But that’s not all I’m doing. I’m now starting to intentionally speak my newfound values – wear them, live them – since abundance is better shared than kept for oneself.
So here’s the link to the exercise. If you want to do a thorough job, it should take you a few weeks to go through it and make tweaks until something great comes out. Have fun!