Last week a colleague asked me how to stay the course and focus on the long game, when results aren't stacking up in the short-term. Without hesitation I told her it was only possible for me with clear
conviction about my values and desires. I knew what I wanted my future to feel like, and I knew I had to stay focused on the vision to make it happen. Regardless of what was thrown at me, and the detours I took, my eyes were on the future.
I've been wanting to write this article for awhile because it's so central to everything
I do and believe. It's a complex topic, and I'm sure I didn't do it justice today. There are whole books written on these subjects! But this is your starter guide to values and desires, which should give you enough to get going.
And coincidentally, enjoy this little note from Seth Godin today. This quote felt especially relevant: "Standing for something is a good way to avoid having someone stand on you."
Values and Desires: Your North Star for an Aligned Business
What contributes the most to the success of your business?
Is it client results? Marketing strategy? Business model? The connections you have? How good you are at sales? Compelling branding?
If we look at a different scenario, what makes a road
trip super fun? How do you decide where to stop when you’re faced with thousands of options along the way? How do you know what to pack or even what direction to take in the first place?
It all comes back to your values and desires.
Without them, you’re a boat without a rudder. I know that’s an over-used metaphor, but when I asked my partner this morning what it meant for him to know his values, that’s exactly what he said. They keep him on track, focused, and it makes it much easier to steer.
Let’s break this down together. I’ll get the definitions out of the way, then we’ll talk about the juicy stuff.
What are Core Values?
Core values are the principles a person has and views as most important. They’re not possessions, they’re concepts. They go deep within you and aren’t easily shifted. For example:
They can change over time, or at least some come to the forefront at different times, but for the most part they’re slow to shift and they stay pretty consistent.
There is a distinction to be made between personal values and
company values. You may find there’s overlap between the two, but you can have different values for your business than for yourself personally. To me, for example, adventure and newness are very important, but in my business I value simplicity and systems. Especially if you have a team, you’ll want to make sure you have distinguished between the two.
What are Desired Feelings?
Desired feelings are similar but offers a key distinction from values. This is how you want to feel. I was awakened to this concept by Danielle LaPorte and her book The Desire Map. As far as I’m concerned this is essential reading for any human, but especially for business owners. The main takeaway is that goals are less important than how you want to feel, since we set goals because we expect to feel a certain way when we achieve them. If we can get clear on our desired feelings, then we can aim to feel that way with or without the goal.
A desired feeling might be something like:
In my experience, these change a lot more often than values. Depending on where I’m at and what’s going on in my life, my desires might be radically different,
though some typically stay the same.
Why do Values and Desires Matter?
When I start working with a client, one of the first things we do is talk about values and desires. I want to make sure that whatever goal the client is bringing to the table takes these into consideration. As we work together, I keep bringing them back to their values and desires to make sure they’re ever-present as they move forward. Before every call, they fill out a form and one of the questions is “Reflect on your values since our last session. What are you doing
to honor them? What are you doing that isn't honoring them?”
One of my superpowers is to be able to see the big picture, and all the little things that have to happen to get there. Just last week I realized that the big picture isn’t just the strategic vision or financial goals of the
company, but in fact I keep their life as a focal point when I’m looking at the big picture. That is quite different from the mainstream approach to business.
The reason values and desires are so critical is because they inform every decision you make. They help you decide what direction your
business should go, who you should hire, what you should invest in, the kinds of clients you can help, and so much more. They inform your sales process, your branding, your offerings, and even your schedule.
If we go back to the road trip example, last summer my family drove out to
Eastern Canada for two week. 40 hours in the car. A standout memory for me was when we passed a house with a big sign on the front lawn saying “Handmade Wooden Kids Toys”. I slammed on the brakes and pulled into the driveway. I passed hundreds of other stores on that trip without thinking twice, but this one appealed to my values. Handmade. Natural. Local. Family. Quality. Of course we stopped!
The same is true in your business. Your business is here to serve you, and by extension, your community. We’re not in business to build ourselves a soul-sucking job, so the way to stay sane is to prioritize your values and desires.
Once you know what they are (which I’ll get to next) you might start to notice patterns. You may notice that you’ve previously made decisions that align well with your values and desires. You may also notice that places where you feel resistance or stuck could be places where you weren’t honouring them. You’ll start to see what it feels like to ignore your values and desires, and what it feels like to listen to them.
How to Uncover Your Values and Desires
This is not hard, and it does not need to be perfect. Spend an hour on this, tops, and get a start on it. Once
you have your values and desires outlined, the key is to try them on and see what happens. What I see is that people in their first attempt will pick ones they think they should have, but not the ones they truly have. Then when they’re using them day-to-day, they aren’t as useful. Get a first pass of this done, and plan to revisit them in a few months after you’ve sat with them.
You can use the same process for both, and you can do an extra version for your company values if that feels relevant for you. If you feel comfortable just coming up with them off the top of your head, then great! If not I recommend finding a list of values and a list of desires by doing an internet search. I use Brené Brown’s list of values from her book Dare to Lead and I use Danielle Laporte’s
list of desires from her book The Desire Map.
- Go through the list and pull out any words that resonate with you
- Narrow the list down
to no more than 5
- If this is challenging, try to:
- group them to see if there is any overlap
- look up the definitions
- look up synonyms to see if there’s a better word
- rank them in order
- Write a definition of each one. This is YOUR definition, not just what the dictionary says.
Think of examples of you living this value and what that looks like.
- Keep this list somewhere you can refer to it often.
I should note that there are LOTS of ways to uncover your values and desires. I’ve had a coach walk me through a visualization, I’ve explored a peak life experience, journalling is good, so is meditation…there’s no right way to do this. I find most of my clients appreciate just looking through a list and keeping it simple.
If I’m being honest, I don’t have these in front of me every day, I don’t make affirmations about them, or journal about them, or really
do a whole lot with them at all. They’re most useful when I’m making a tough decision, feeling miserable, or doing any planning. It’s amazing, though, when my coach or partner bring them to my attention. Sometimes I’m just too close to the situation to lift myself up to the bigger picture. But they’re always there, waiting for me to rediscover them.
Take a deep breath, get yourself into a calm, content state, and give it a go!
Once you know your values it can be worth having a discussion about what it looks like to live those values, what it looks like when you aren’t
living them, and if your goals align with your values and desired feelings. If you’d like a thought partner to work through this with, you’re welcome to book a coaching
session, my gift to you, no strings attached. Read about gift sessions and book one here.
You've got this,
Your Business Guide