We need to talk about values…

It’s hard to have a serious conversation about values these days.

The story of the politician who shouts about the importance of trust, and then cheats on his wife has become so common, that it’s a cliché. So too are the stories of spiritual leaders preaching generosity while hoarding their personal wealth, corporations promising quality and service then vanishing the moment a sale has been made, and teachers claiming to put their students first only to silence class conversations about sex, religion, and politics.

We haven’t had a serious public conversation about gun control, contraception, or social services in the US in many many years. All we’ve heard are people shouting without anyone listening.

On the rare occasions we do have real public conversations about values, they get muddled by outside actors trying to persuade and manipulate our values so they can achieve their own ends.

The result is disastrous.

Ask the average teenager or young adult what they value and you’ll either get a blank stare or you’ll get a canned response they learned from their parents, church, school, or politicians.

And I can’t say I blame them. With all this noise, aggression, and dissension around values, it leaves millennials completely directionless. It’s easier to shut down and ignore the chaos than it is to make sense of it.

But without authentic and thoughtful values it becomes impossible to find happiness, let alone become an effective leader. Without authentic values and the direction they provide we end up quietly miserable wasting time chasing pleasure without ever doing anything significant.

So what should you do? Go inside yourself.

Reflect. Think about your life and what’s truly important to you. Figure out where you stand by writing and talking and listening and reading and thinking. To help clarify your thinking around values, here are topics that I believe are important to consider. Be sure to add topics that are important to you too. Ask yourself, “Where do I stand on the following”:

  • Helping the less fortunate
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Money
  • The role of the affluent in society
  • The environment
  • Spirituality
  • Authenticity (how true to yourself are you going to be?)
  • Quality of life (is having fun more important than working hard?)
  • The role of violence and it’s tools

By connecting to yourself and your values you can cut through the chaos and manipulation of modern influencers and emerge as an authentic, happy, successful person. Making effective decisions will become simple – if it aligns with your values, green light it; if it doesn’t,  red light it.

Eventually, if you stay true to your values you’ll flourish as a leader and role model without even meaning to.

[Hat tip to my mentor, JP, for the early morning conversation today that inspired this post – I called him asking for help with a tricky business decision and he reminded me to make sure it was aligned with my values]

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