This week, I was in a conversation about fixing/improving/reimagining capitalism in this country that included people of different perspectives. While people were going around and sharing their thoughts, I had a guttural yearning for us to all stop talking. Followed by a deep yearning for everyone in the world to stop.
The world many of us live in today moves so damn fast. There’s so much nonstop noise, from traditional and social media, from corporations hurtling forward with their updates, pulled by the force to do more and make more - more money, more things, more options...just more…
...but for what?
As I observe everyday the ever accelerating movement of people and noise, I find myself yearning for Thanos’ gauntlet, to snap my fingers and make everyone stop.
Stop moving. Stop talking. Stop buying. Stop making. Stop doing.
Can we all stop, and instead of making noise, observe the thoughts in our own heads and hearts, and reflect on who we are.
In this conversation about capitalism, multiple people raised the suggestion that businesses should operate with their values. As an entrepreneur and organizational leader, I believe deeply in the importance of values. But you know what it takes to understand your values, and make day-to-day decisions grounded in your values? It takes stillness.
It requires us to stop, breathe, and reflect introspectively, and quietly.
When we think of our values, especially in a corporate setting, it’s so easy to jump to nice words that we can all agree on, like “integrity,” “humility,” “growth mindset,” “innovation,” “agility,” and so forth.
But these generic lists are not values. Values are not identified in a retreat once a year in a rapid-fire brainstorm, to then sit on a poster collecting dust.
For us to live by our values, it requires slowing down. It requires reflecting daily what our values are, what values of ours are being challenged, and how we can align our actions with our values. The outcome of every single decision we make, big and small, business, civic, and personal, can be influenced by our values.
The power of values is that they guide us in making tradeoffs. And they demand that we prioritize some values over others. For example, do you value social status over community? Do you value connectedness with the earth over physical comfort? Do you value personal gain over doing what it takes to make the world a more just place? Do you value quarterly cost savings over preserving the planet for future generations? Or vice versa?
Understanding your values takes time and stillness. Because understanding your values involves the difficult act of coming to terms with who you are and how you act.
In this stillness, we are invited to confront the fact - and wrestle with the guilt - that how we’ve been living can conflict with the image we’ve painted for who we think we are or who we want to be. For example, perhaps you’ve said you value diversity, but when hiring new team members, you only turn to your insular network of alums from your alma mater. Or you’ve said you value economic opportunity and mobility, but you buy your clothes off Amazon instead of local designers and business owners in your backyard.
So before we talk about making change, or before we forge on, let’s all stop. Let’s do the hard, slow work of understanding what truly matters to us. Let’s be real with ourselves of what we are ok sacrificing and what are we not ok sacrificing.
And then when we restart, let’s take regular - dare I say daily - timeouts to reflect, journal, and examine how we are, and are not, living out our values.
This is the power of quiet reflection, on pen and paper. Writing - rather than typing - forces us to slow down our thoughts, enabling us to more deeply process our thoughts and feelings. It allows us to steadily uncover, layer by layer, the depths of who we are and what matters to us.
In this vein, here are some of our journaling prompts that can support us in understanding our values. If you’re resonating with this blog, I invite you to include one or two of these reflective prompts in your customized journal by Zenit - for yourself and/or your team:
What matters most to me in this moment?
What are my needs?
Who am I at my best?
How am I honoring what I want?
If I wasn’t worried about others, I would say/do…
How am I being true to myself?
The things that have been causing me tension lately are…
How am I living out my values?
What am I learning about myself?
I’m finding that as I journal daily in my custom journal with my personalized prompts, I’m learning more and more what matters to me. I’m dissecting experiences where something comes into conflict with my values, and deciding how I prefer to respond in those situations.
I recently left a contract consulting position with a major consulting firm. During the tenure of this position, the work was easy, the pay was good, but I was unhappy. I spent most of my energy managing my emotional response to the suppressive work environment. I wanted to do work which I believed would be impactful, yet I was repeatedly told “no” and ordered to do busy work.
Looking back at my journal entries about this job, a lot of it is venting. But I also learned more about my values from this experience. I learned that I value independence over consensus. I value impact over approval. And even though it was a frustrating experience, I’m glad it showed me how deeply rooted I am in my values.
As I journal daily in my customized wellness journal, I’m learning the power of stopping. I can feel the difference when I hold true to my morning routine: breakfast, 10 minutes of meditation, and journaling in my customized journal with my coffee. After this moment of stillness, I spend the rest of the day being more deliberate and strategic in my actions. I am more responsive to my body, mind, and heart. I am more thoughtful in my interactions with others.
I still need to actively remind myself to stop - because it’s been so deeply ingrained in me to keep moving. But now, even if I might be moving more slowly to others, I know I am moving forward with more impact, led by my heart and my values.