I start each of my client engagements with a series of exercises designed to crystalize the values that each individual holds near and dear. It is through the knowing and holding of these values that allow an individual to fully explore oneself in relation to one’s community and world.
What do you care about at your core?
What makes you unique in how you relate to family, friends, and colleagues?
What motivates you?
What do you seek for yourself, your family, your community and society?
Last week, I engaged in a values exercise with my one of my closest and oldest friends during an infrequent and treasured opportunity spend the day together. She wanted to understand the nature of my work at more than a surface level. We have known each other since the age of six and we have always sought to understand each other beneath our respective armor and baggage that we have each collected over the years. When we were done exploring her values, she turned the table on me. It was at that moment when I realized that it was time to explore my own values here and now, in the moment.
Have my values changed over time? Are they consistent with the way in which I present myself to others?
Here’s what I discovered. My top 5 values, with little or no wavering are:
Integrity (Principled)– acting in alignment with my deeply held values and ideals. Anyone who knows me understands that integrity is core to my being. I find it impossible to act or behave in ways that are inconsistent with who I am. This coherence leads me to make decisions quickly and does not allow me to say “yes” when I really mean “no”. Integrity has been my North Star and, while it doesn’t always lead to people pleasing, it guides my actions and behavior on a daily basis.
Self-reliance (Independent)– acting independently using my own abilities and resources. This word has been most often used to describe me. I love to travel on my own, explore new spaces and places, and generally refuel by getting grounded with myself before connecting with others.
Personal Growth (Open Minded)– pursuing new skills and self-awareness. I sometimes refer to this as ‘following the bouncing ball’. I am constantly looking for opportunities to learn more and grow, whether that be through positive psychology, family systems, leadership coaching, philanthropic engagement, or yoga and meditation.
Relationships– caring for and spending time with family and friends. Knowing, respecting, appreciating, and making the effort to spend quality time with those I care most about has become increasingly important to me. I have traveled long distances for just a meal, conversation, and connection with my closest people. It is always worth it.
Loyalty– being devoted to a person, ideal, duty or cause. Once I’m in, I’m in it for real. I don’t see any point in committing to someone or something without full immersion. I see loyalty as taking relationships to the next level. It describes a fierceness of commitment and love.
What does values crystallization mean and why does it matter? Your values anchor your decisions, in your personal life, in your professional life, and they show up in how you conduct yourself in your daily interactions. When you communicate your values to yourself and others, you begin to align your actions- including your charitable giving and related civic activities- with what you believe in. Knowing your values is an important first step in beginning to plan for more meaningful relationships with family, friends, and the community. When working with family in philanthropy, you cannot stop at your individual values. You must work together toward the goal of articulating shared values and a common purpose. Once you become grounded in what you believe, you can begin to mobilize other individuals, whether in a family, in a foundation, or in a giving circle, around what values you and your fellow travelers share and what you have in common toward a greater good.