Chapter 1: Creating A Personal Vision
* Identifying values
* Governing values
* Values balancing
What you must dare is to be yourself.
The subject matter of this chapter changed my life and made this book possible.
In 1985 I was a marketing director and project manager for a computer engineering company in Provo, Utah. The word that best describes how I was feeling at that time of my life is "overwhelmed," although "out of control" also comes close. I had recently taken on these new positions and really didn't know how to get the job responsibilities under control and properly managed.
One day the president of the company announced a new training program offered by a company then called the Franklin Institute. Not wanting to hear from his often outspoken staff, the president didn't tell us what the training was, just when and where to show up. Having seen many training initiatives come and go, when I walked into the conference room and saw a day planner and training guidebook at each seat, I remember thinking, What harebrained idea are we chasing this time?
Although I didn't realize it completely at the time, by the end of the day, my life had changed forever. During the session we learned how to use a day planner to get control of our time, to track and manage all those tasks that had previously slipped through the cracks. I also learned how to develop a referencing system that kept all that old-but-still-important information at my fingertips. I remember the excitement and the sense that I might be able to get my new job responsibilities under control by using this tool.
But one part of the training day bothered me a lot. The presenter talked about building our productivity on the basis of our own personal values. He led us through an exercise to identify our values, defining them as the principles and qualities we cared most about in our lives. His point was that if our productivity was based on something other than our personal values, then even if we managed our time better and became more productive, we wouldn't be more personally satisfied.
Being more productive may not mean being more satisfied.
Philosophically that made sense to me, and I was amazed that I had never identified and prioritized my values before. The problem came when I actually had my list of values in front of me. Here were the things that I thought were most important in my life, yet when I compared my list to the life I was living, they didn't seem to have much in common.
During that one-day training session, we didn't have enough time to fully develop and clarify our values, so during the next few weeks I finished the exercise. Working a little each day, I drew up a list of nine personal values, defined and clarified what they meant to me, and developed goals that related to each value. Since then I have added values to that list, but those original nine have never changed. They defined the qualities I felt were critical in my life, such as having a warm, healthy relationship with my son (at the time, I was a single mother of a seven-year-old), continuing my growth and development mentally and spiritually, financial security, healthy relationships, health and fitness, and so forth.
The hardest part of working with these values was ranking them. I realized that while they were all vital to me, some were of higher value than others. The value that became my number one priority surprised me at the time, but I couldn't have chosen a better guidance system for how I wanted to live my life. It was "Inner peace and well-being."
Once I had my values identified and goals defined for each, I could develop the list of specific dally tasks that would lead toward those goals. These tasks were plugged in to my day planner where they became more than just tasks; they were stepping-stones toward the life I wanted to lead.
It's hard to describe what happened, but my life today, twelve years later, bears little resemblance to the life I was living then. The changes came unfailingly, sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly, sometimes in expected ways but often from completely unexpected directions. Hyrum Smith often mentions that a plane flying from Los Angeles to Honolulu may be off course as much as 97 percent of the time! However, because the pilot knows exactly where the destination is, as soon as the plane veers slightly off course, he makes a correction. Getting to our destination does not require perfection; it simply requires a clear picture of where we're going and a willingness to change course as often as it takes to get there.
* Ponder Point: Can you think of a time in your life when you were often off course but, through frequent corrections, wound up where you wanted to be?
One of my first changes came when I realized that my list of values was incompatible with my job situation. It took a little more than a year, but with my values list in mind, I was eventually able to find an employer who was a better fit with my life direction.
I also began to make progress on my other values, such as developing my intellectual and career growth through evening classes and reading as many books as possible, studying to become a practitioner in my church, focusing on health and physical fitness, and rearranging my schedule to have more time to spend with my son. None of this happened overnight, but gradually what I had clarified as my values steadily became my lifestyle. Now, as I look at my list of values, I can see that it has become my life, not just a wish list.
JUST SAY YES
Identifying and prioritizing our life values is the first step in developing a life purpose, a process that may be the most important work we do in our life. Purpose pulls us in the direction we want to go. Many popular reform programs are based on a philosophy of "Just say no!" Unfortunately, those programs generally are not very successful because saying no to something is not as powerful as saying yes to an objective that we are passionate about.
Purpose pulls us in the direction we want to go.
For example, a friend of mine, after several years of working as a sales manager, recently reached a crossroads. His company had gone public, which created a sizable windfall for him. While it wasn't like winning Super Lotto, it was enough money to give Kevin some options -- travel, luxuries, retirement, even possibly a few harmful indulgences.
But for Kevin the decision was easy because he had a life purpose. He had spent time identifying his life values, and he was clear about his biggest dream: establishing a camp for high-risk adolescents. He knew exactly what he wanted the camp to look like and how it would be operated. When the windfall came his way, he knew with great certainty what to do with it. Without that clear vision of his life purpose, Kevin might have used the money for things that would not have brought him the joy that building a camp for kids is now bringing him.
For several years the corporate world has emphasized the importance of mission or vision statements. Well-thought-out vision statements provide a road map to guide the actions and decisions of people throughout the organization. Exciting, challenging vision statements engage the energies and enthusiasms of people, often creating incredible levels of peak performance. Just as vision statements help guide and motivate organizations, personal vision statements help individuals reach their highest level.
* Ponder Point: Before continuing, write a one-sentence vision statement for your life. Notice whether this is an easy or difficult exercise. The more difficult it is, the more useful you will find the following material.
For a personal vision statement to be effective, however, it has to be based on our deepest values. A vision statement of being the richest person in the world would be counterproductive for a person whose governing value was spending time with family or becoming a concert pianist.
IDENTIFYING OUR GOVERNING VALUES
Sometimes people get concerned when we talk about values, because they think we're preaching or trying to impose our beliefs or principles on them. The following exercise is not about which values are right or wrong, good or bad. It's about understanding what's important in your life. I am passionate about nature and horses, and I love to spend time riding. For Joyce, riding horses is a pleasant diversion rather than a passion, and I'm sure there are folks who would consider riding a torture and see no value in it at all.
Values tell us why we do what we do.
By identifying our governing values, we begin to understand why we do what we do. Values are the underlying motivators of all of our actions. Living effectively means that everything we do is based on one or more of our values. One of my values is family, so when I hang out with my son or have a leisurely Sunday barbecue with my parents, that time is just as important as time spent working. Eventually we can look at each of our actions and ask ourselves what value is being supported by that action. We can also see gaps where our life is not supporting certain values, thus creating a life out of balance.
Jot down five things you've done in the past few days and then identify the values related to those activities. We've provided four examples to get you started.
Riding my horse Nature, solitude, inner peace
Going to a movie Family time
Kayaking Adventure, nature
Going to work Financial security, contribution
One of the best ways to discover your values is to use a simple technique called "mindmapping." We will discuss this technique further in the next chapter, but for now, take the next five minutes and complete the mindmap template on page 28 with the principles and qualities that are most important to your life. For these few minutes, don't think about the shoulds or ought tos. These are your values, not your parents', teachers', bosses' -- yours! Spend a few minutes mapping your values and we'll talk more about these values in the coming chapters. You can build on the activities and values you identified above. The following questions may help you identify even more values that are most important in your life:
What are all the qualities that make your life better?
What helps you survive, thrive, and prosper?
f0 What would you like to have more of in your life?
What would you miss if it were eliminated from your life?
What qualities define the person you want to be?
As you're filling in the values map in Figure 1-1, put down everything that comes to mind; you can always go back later and combine, edit, or delete. This is just a first look at your values. We will explore this further in Chapter 3 when we use these values as a basis for building a foundation for personal and organizational projects.
Here's a sample list of values to help stimulate your thinking:
Health and fitness Honesty
Financial security Generosity
Inner peace Joy
Spirituality Career growth and development
Once you have a mindmap of your values, you have an image of what your ideal life would be like since it would include all of the values on your mindmap. You can begin to look at your present situation and make adjustments to add things that aren't present in your life or eliminate activities that are not consistent with your life values. You can use this values map as a constant reminder of what you want your life to be like. It helps you make decisions about your career, where to live, how to invest your money, who to choose as a spouse, even how much to eat or exercise.
Your values map helps you make important decisions about your life.
Here's a quick exercise to give you a visual clue about how well balanced your life is.
Take your top values and put them in the box at the end of each spoke of the value balance wheel (Figure 1-2). Then turn to the performance indicator form (Figure 1-3) and think about where you'd like to be with each value. For instance, if one of your values is financial security, you might consider the following objectives perfect for right now:
* Saving 10 percent of each paycheck
* Having no credit card debt
* Accumulating an investment portfolio of $10,000
Fill in your current perfect performance for each value.
HOW ARE YOU DOING?
If you're doing all of the activities that you determined would be perfect for a particular value, give yourself a 10 and put a dot on the spoke next to that value box. However, in the above example, let's assume that you haven't quite accomplished everything that you'd like: you've missed a couple of pay periods on your savings, and you still have some balances on your credit card. In that case, you might put a dot on the 7. If you haven't saved anything for several months and you're not making progress on your credit card debt or your investment portfolio, you might give yourself a 1 or a 2. This is your evaluation of how you're doing.
Go around the wheel and rate your current performance on each value. Remember, this isn't some rating against a future perfect ideal; this is just how are you doing right now compared to a reasonable target for this particular value. Once you've rated yourself on each of the values, you can connect the dots and you have an image of how balanced your life is. You will probably find yourself with a somewhat lopsided circle -- relatively high numbers for some of the values and low ones for a few. This gives you an immediate take on where your life is out of balance and shows you where extra effort could help bring your life into better balance.
Knowing what you want your life to look like is an important first step to living effectively. This creates the foundation for the things we want to be able to create in our lives, for ourselves as individuals, and for organizations. To help you create the life you want, the next chapter will explore your gift of creativity.
Copyright © 1997 by Lynne Snead and Joyce Wycoff