Sometimes we only realize our core values when they’re challenged
By Lisa Seppala, True North Implementation
If asked, “what are your core values?” could you easily answer? It’s not unusual to struggle to articulate your values, but they are present, buried deep within, helping to guide your actions. When your actions align with your values, you feel great. When they aren’t aligned, you feel unsettled or worse.
After years of leadership experience, I’m sometimes struck (and surprised) when a personal, unarticulated value comes to the surface, usually with alarming speed.
For example, several years ago, I was walking Ginger (my protective, unpredictable rescue dog) around the lake in our neighbourhood. It had recently snowed, heavy west coast snow, and two older teenage boys were standing on a small dock dropping big chunks of snow on the backs of geese floating on the water. The boys’ dog, a large rottweiler, was tied to a nearby post and was quite agitated by the presence of the geese and the boys’ activity. It was clear that the geese were stressed by the harassment.
When I happened upon the scene, something inside me was immediately triggered and motivated me to act.
In a loud voice, I let the boys know what I thought about their actions. The rottweiler then focused on me, and Ginger focused on everything, ready to scrap. My fight-or-flight instincts kicked in as I approached the boys. I wasn’t backing down, and I felt myself straightening to appear taller as I got closer. The boys made a lame excuse for their actions, and I responded, “what have those geese done to you to deserve that kind of treatment?”. The boys mumbled a few words and then grabbed their dog and left the scene.
As Ginger and I resumed our walk, I reflected on what I had just experienced. Something in me was challenged and motivated me to take a stand. That something was a set of deep-seated values – respect, protectiveness, and compassion for those less able to defend themselves.
Flash forward to our current world events. As I watch the tragedy unfolding on the other side of the world, those values are rising to the surface once more. This time, I cannot intervene and can only help in some small way. I’m sure I’m not alone in this thinking and feeling.
While it has been challenging to direct my energy back to what is within my control, this heightened awareness of my values gives me power. Power to delve deeper into my purpose and work harder to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself – goals aligned to the person I want to be and the value I want to create within my sphere of influence. The more I can do this, the more I will connect with others who share the same values – respect, protectiveness, compassion – and maybe, just maybe, we can make a slight difference in the world. Ah, and there marks another value, hope.