On MLK day we commemorate the birth of Martin Luther

King, who ultimately died because of the values of interracial harmony and nonviolence he was working to spread in the US.  Most of us will not be beaten, arrested or even assassinated as he was for our beliefs.  But what if that were a risk to you?  How ready are you to stand up for the values in which you believe?

This begs the other question – how recently have you thought about what your core values are?  We’re not talking about the aspirational values that you think you should embody, but those that are so deeply a part of who you are – or who your business is – that they have become ingrained in the fabric of everyday behavior.

If you have not yet thought about the difference between aspirational (should) and actual, take a look in these few places.  Your core values will reveal themselves.

  1. What activities are in your calendar for this week, this month?  Which ones are recurring, and are the ones you make room for no matter what else is going on?  The fact that they are in your calendar means that you are prioritizing them over activities that you’re not writing down, that you’re planning to do if you have enough time left over after the important ones are done.
  2. How do you earn and spend your money?  Do you have a 9-5 gig that you expect to cover all of the bills and then some?  Do you patch together various sources of revenue?  Do you keep a lot of reserves on hand, or operate paycheck to paycheck? When you spend money, where does your discretionary money go?  Dining out?  Movies? Toys? Vacations?
  3. How do you treat other people, whether they are customers, colleagues, family or friends?  Have you objectified them as instruments to be used toward your desired ends?  Have you made others more important and influential than you are yourself?  Do you trust them?  Do you like them?  Do you go out of your way to please them?  Is your behavior consistent toward people who are like you versus people who are different from you?
There’s a game called “Would You Rather” that is played at parties, or as an ice breaker, that can help to clarify values, and to share them among a group. Some of the questions are silly, but some are revealing:
  • Would you rather hand a project in late and precise, or on time and “good enough”?
  • Would you rather live in a big, beautiful house or go on a lot of interesting vacations?
  • Would you rather get more education for a higher income later, or make money now, even if it won’t be as much as you’d earn with more education?
  • Would you rather attend a professional sporting event or a concert?
Once have determined what’s important to you, how willing are you to bend your core values based upon external pressures, like
  • Loved ones
  • Friends
  • Your boss or colleagues
  • Convenience or inconvenience
  • Popularity of your values in your environment
Your values are not to be taken lightly.  When you behave in conflict with them you create internal discomfort and stress.  When your actions are in alignment with them you are able to bring the full force of your talents and skills to the fore, and you are able to sustain your behavior.  When you know what you want and what’s important you are better able to attract other people who are in alignment with you.  You become a leader.