Over the past couple of months, I’ve found myself saying things that at any other time would have sounded ridiculous…
“Are masks required to go into the stores?”
“Have all of the shopping carts already been disinfected?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to stay six feet away from you.”
“I would typically shake your hand…but you know…”
To say that this pandemic has made us deal with unexpected consequences is an understatement. We’re like ships who were once secure in a calm harbor, who’ve awoken to find ourselves unanchored in the middle of a hurricane. This sudden change has increased pressure and confusion…which are two great contexts from which to assess our ’emergency response systems’.
Before I write any more, I want to be clear that this is not a ‘let’s kick ourselves while we’re down’ moment. Times of incredible change often lead us to fear…which leads us to a survival mentality…and before you know it, you’re at home with 12 packages of toilet paper and a lifetime supply of disinfectant wipes. We will most likely look back on these past months (both collectively and individually) and wish we had done things differently.
But with that said, I want to invite you into the eye of the storm to find some perspective before going back into the wind and the rain.
Seasons of pressure reveal our practiced values
Pressure, conflict, and change do not build character…they reveal it. The magic is found when we understand and observe our actions under pressure. The self-data gained in these moments is gold…because it’s unfiltered and ‘raw you.’ Maybe this moment has helped you discover that you’re not who you want to be, and that’s fine. Life is a journey and you have time grow….and, again, this isn’t a time to beat yourself up for not being perfect. It’s just a good time to assess the foundation you have laid for yourself.
Your values are your foundation. When the heat is on and the pressure burns away all the talk, you’re only left with your actions. In moments like these, everybody sees what’s what. For some, this has been a time where their values have lead them into courage, selflessness, and hope. For others, their greed, fear, and selfishness have come to the surface. Either way, this pressure has revealed what is true.
This moment of intense pressure is a time to consider the gaps between our aspirational and practiced values (who we say we are vs who we really are). The gap between your practiced values and aspirational values is where much conflict and confusion can arise for you and your team. Discovering these incongruencies is a gift because they give you the chance to ‘do the work’ to become whole (aka…have integrity).
Here are a few questions to ask…
- What things have come up in my life and/or business that surprised me?
- What old issues of mine, that I thought I dealt with in the past, have come up again?
- What has this season revealed to be my ‘practiced’ values?
Extra credit: Can we pre-decide who we want to be before the pressure comes?
Our responsive emotions and feelings get the best of us more than we may like to believe. Creating a list of values ‘before the storm comes’ will help you be the person/business you want to be when your emotions may be guiding you elsewhere. There’s an expression, “Don’t doubt in darkness what you have seen in the light.”
Deciding who we want to be (ourselves individually and for our businesses), when the pressure is not on, will ensure we don’t get bumped off course and end up at an unintended destination. Here’s the tricky part…The first decision you make contrary to your values may not make you feel ‘off course’. And maybe not the second, third, or fourth. But if we allow ourselves to make many small choices that deviate from our values, we will eventually find ourselves completely off the map.
Here’s a quick values exercise you could do…since everyone has so much time on their hands!
- On a small piece of paper, write down a list of 5 words that represent who you want to be. (This could also be for the business you are leading)
- On the back of that note, write down actions from the past week that show how you’ve expressed that value.
- On the back of a new small sheet of paper write down some of the major core feelings you’ve had this past month (hope, fear, bravery, worry, generosity, etc)
- On the back of these sheets, write down actions from the past week that express these feelings.
- Looking at all the pieces of the paper, with the ‘single word’ side up, ask yourself, “What do the differences/similarities in my feelings and values tell me about myself? (the goal is to observe the gap between aspiration and practice)