Life & Business Values: Why You Need Them
What are your life values? What are the underlying principles of who you are or what your business stands for?
I ask you, because I had to ask myself these questions recently as I began to build the mission and values statement for my business Women of Wonder. So I found myself digging deeper into the mission and value statements of other businesses. I spent hours exploring definitions and endless word lists of possible values. Hours were invested in revising. (If you read on, you’ll find my mission and values draft for Women of Wonder at the end of this post)
Ashamed I hadn’t done it sooner, I needed to do this now. Especially now, especially in the wake of Charlottesville. I knew that by articulating my core business values, I would be reflecting my own personal values. In essence, posting them on my website would inform future clients about who I was as a business owner. And more importantly, they would inform others as to who I am as a human being. The women I work with would know I was serious about certain life-guiding principles.
Yet, including these values would also be a way of not staying silent. And particularly, not staying silent about denouncing racism, bigotry, misogyny, white supremacy, all the ugly propaganda being unleashed in our country today.
Still I hemmed and hawed. Why? Because I was trying to perfect my values.
Perfectionism, the fear behind not knowing our values
I was especially inspired to “do something” as a woman, as a writer, as a business owner after reading Marilyn Bousquin’s recent post over at Writing Women’s Lives.
In her blog, Marilyn writes about how perfectionism, or trying to get our words right, is a silent form of racism. When we wait to respond out of fear of not saying or writing it perfectly, we risk supporting “business as usual” and worse.
Business as usual. Holy fuck. In the aftermath of the most horrific outbreak of active racism this country has seen in decades—never mind the more insidious and ubiquitous passive racism—I was maintaining business as usual.
Business as usual: a form of passive racism.
When we don’t do something or remain silent out of fear, we are sending the wrong message. We risk doing business as if nothing happened in Charlottesville. If we allow perfectionism to keep us back from standing up for what we believe in, our values statement will never be created. And our clients will wonder, and perhaps wrongly assume, what our values are.
Your Values Statement doesn’t have to be perfect
If our nation is in a state of great turmoil and transition–and I believe it is–then one of the survival strategies that can help support us is to remember who we are and what we value. Not only do we need to do this for ourselves , but we also need to do this for our businesses as well. (Think of all those CEOs who departed certain presidential advisory councils…yes, they feared business retaliation in the form of income loss, but I also believe some were adhering to their own company’s mission and values.)
Our value statement or list won’t be a perfect, and this is OK. Like mine for Women of Wonder, I’m beginning to feel it’s a work in progress. But like mine, yours can be a start, one to return to, to amend, revise and continually improve upon.
Not sure how to begin?
Here are a few ideas to help you discover your personal and business values:
- Think back over your life, beginning in your childhood. What memories do you have that made you think, “I will never do that or be like that.” What values lie beneath? Can they become a part of your business?
- Who has inspired you in your life? What values do they represent and embrace?
- What businesses inspire you? Discover their mission and value statement. What do you resonate with?
- Begin a page of values in your journal, with “What I value in my life include…..” Keep adding to this list until the page is full. Then go back and see if you can categorize your values. For instance, maybe they fall under common value categories like “community” or “respect for all.” Do the same for your business.
And here are a few more ideas:
- Make a list of all the people you love and respect: friends, family, co-workers. Ask them what they value in you, your business, what characteristics, principals, or morals. Write these down. This can be a cherished list.
- Create an alphabet of your values, A-Z. It’s OK to use a bit of imagination here to incorporate a tough letter like “x” or “q” into your list. Or, choose from this list. Read through your list. What really resonates with you? What doesn’t?
- Discover the mission and values statements of the places where you work, worship, or do business. Explore such statements in your organizations or child’s school. What do you see there that you could borrow for your list? What do you see there that you’d like to challenge? What could you improve upon with your own values or those of your business?
Once you have your values, craft them into a statement, or a paragraph. This takes some extra effort, but it’s well worth the time. Then post this in a prominent place in your home, business office, phone. Take a photo of it and share on your favorite social media stream, create a Pinterest board, and pin it.
Walk the Walk
Lastly, it’s all well and good to craft your value statement. But it’s not enough to “talk the talk.” We have to walk the walk. In closing, I leave you with a few inspirational words from doing just that:
“What if I make a mistake?” you may be thinking. “Racism is a volatile issue, and I don’t want to say or do the wrong thing.” … If we wait for perfection, we will never break the silence. The cycle of racism will continue uninterrupted. ~ Beverly Tatum
If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all. ~ Barack Obama
Be a living expression of your values. Wear them, speak them, make decisions aligned with them. ~ CEO of Your Life
Here’s what I think integrity is: It’s choosing courage over comfort, choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast or easy, and practicing your values. ~ Brene Brown
It’s not easy to take time to know what you stand for and believe in. Some days it’s hard work to discover what values are a part of who you are and would like to become. Yet, it’s worth our time. Once we have these guiding values, our lives will take on deeper meaning. When our purpose and mission become clearer, we have a firm foundation to build upon and guide our every step.
What values are indispensable to who you are today?
As promised, here’s the initial draft of Women of Wonder’s mission and value statements. I welcome your thoughts.
At Women of Wonder, Ginny Taylor guides women in transition towards their new beginning through the synergistic power of writing (mind), creativity (heart), and simple yoga (body).
Together, Ginny and Women of Wonder claim the following core values as central in upholding this mission: We aspire to treat all women with respect and positive regard. We model best practice in our work, including the principles of being ethical, fair, and responsible in all matters. We strive for excellence in all that we do. We embrace the CARES guidelines created by Kathleen Adams (Center for Journal Therapy). These call for confidentiality, acceptance, respect, empathy and support in all our interactions with clients. While we honor the right of every woman to her own opinion, we will not tolerate hateful speech or actions that harm or threaten another.