In recent months people across all 50 states and worldwide are in the streets raising their voices and their fists to demand racial justice for our communities and world. The simmering heat of a robust Black Lives Matter movement added to heightened distress of the COVID-19 pandemic finally brought society to a boiling point. Yet it’s sobering to realize that we’ve been through similar uprisings before and still our moral sins persisted. How can we assure this time we will be different, this time we will usher in palpable change? Perhaps we build conviction from the pain of the pandemic, re-sensitizing ourselves to our shared humanity and interconnected vulnerability. Perhaps our heightened political factions created enough bitterness that as a people we realize we can no longer stay separate, or the same as we were. Whatever the alchemy of the moment, let it be so. This season of upheaval is a call to elected leaders as much as it is a call to each organization and individual, to aim past a “new normal” and bring about a radically different and more just social arrangement.
To do so we must be persistent and unwavering – now is the time to re-encounter our core values. These internalized gemstones are essential to our well-being but can lay hidden beneath layers of socialization, endless activities, and distraction. They glimmer within the attitudes or beliefs we share and reiterate with our friends, neighbors, and in-groups. They lie cloistered among the assumptions we grew up with and perhaps never fully questioned. Our core values are more than our obligations and external circumstances – they are the underlying reason we choose those things. They are the innate source of motivation that give meaning to our lives. While our organizational worlds (companies, clubs, or convenings) may be greater than the sum of their parts, they are also mere reflections and collections of individual experiences. By uncovering core values, our individual contributions to organizational life shine brighter and the brilliance of our shared endeavors become the beacon of hope and inspiration we want them to be.
In her book, Dare to Lead, Brene Brown’s exercise to identify our core values caught my attention, particularly her definition of values as the filter lens through which we make all other decisions. I would add, they are the lens through which we feel most alive. One of my top three values is “Curiosity.” Conveniently, it is one I take comfort in during this period of unprecedented uncertainty and transition. We all hold unanswered questions and we may be more painfully aware of them now than before. Curiosity leads me into patterns of reflectiveness, empathy, consideration for others, perspective taking, and continual search to seek, grow, understand, and experience. Curiosity helps me listen more attentively to colleagues as they share frustrations and challenges, eliciting what’s beneath the surface in order to uproot the source of tension. It also helps me proceed joyfully into projects where there is no apparent roadmap, where shared values provide an intrinsic sense of direction, taking us to a place more fitting to the moment than we imagined.
During trying times and with acute awareness about our societal distress, core values become our internal rock of stability. With authentic communication about them and the desire to come together in shared purpose, we can navigate our way to the other side. By rediscovering our values we remember ourselves as unique and naturally energetic beings, with power and purpose in the world, with a life worth living in a world worth changing.
For breakfast, I had eggs, arepas, and hot chocolate.