29 Jun

my values

Yesterday, Con posted about her values, and it reminded me of an activity* I do with my students in one of my classes. The students blog about their values, their beliefs, and their leadership principles. The first stage in this is considering their values, not just their ‘work’ values, but the values they aspire to live by.

I always share my values with my students, too. And Con’s post prompted me to reblog them here. This is pretty much the way I shared them with my students, with minimal editing.

I also ask my students to consider where their values come from. All except the very last of my values are rooted in my experiences as a child, and particularly in the way my family functions.

Family first
For me, this means prioritising family before everything else. It means trying to protect my time with my family. It means working hard for my family’s benefit.

Most importantly, it’s the time I spend with my family that grounds me.

It’s true that there really isn’t a ‘normal’ family type anymore, and my family is certainly testament to that. As a child, I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents. I really had five parents – my mum and dad, my maternal grandparents, and my sister (lucky me – having a sister six years older than you essentially means you have an extra parent… all your life!). ¬†We have always been an unusually close family. I could count on my hands the number of days in my life when I didn’t see or speak to my grandmother. My sister and I were raised not just by our parents, but also by our grandparents.

One day my nephew asked me why I wouldn’t play with him, and I replied along the lines of “oh, sometimes I have to work”. His sister piped up with “no, you allllllways have to work”. Such a little thing. An honest comment from a toddler. It made me stop and think about my values and my priorities and I realised that, although the value I put at the top of my list is my commitment to my family, I wasn’t really living that value the way I wanted to be. Although I work hard *for* my family, in all honesty, my family would probably rather I spent more time with them than worked my butt off to secure a particular future for us all. The kids just wanted me to play fire engines. (I do mean sound effects.) But I was too busy “doing conference calls and emails” (this is how they describe my job). That’s not valuing my family.

This particular value can be personally challenging, but it is something that I work hard at because I believe it is fundamentally important.

I was once asked to describe myself as a teacher. The first words that sprang to mind were “over-nurturer”. I love to look after everyone, personally and professionally. This means I do lots of informal mentoring, lots of knowledge sharing. It also means I spend a lot of time beating myself up about not nurturing the people that are most important to me the way I’d like to be able to. It also makes setting boundaries difficult. Sometimes I nurture to my own detriment by overcommitting myself. I find it difficult to say no, and I also can’t stop myself from offering help, support, care even when it’s not asked of me. I see someone or something that needs looking after, and my instinct is to put on my superhero cape and save the day.

Interestingly, while I value caring for an nurturing others, I am not very good at caring for or nurturing myself. This is an area in which I’d like to enact change.

For me, diligence is about having a strong work ethic and being 100% committed to everything I do. My parents are both incredibly hard working. I definitely live out this value, perhaps even to an unhealthy extreme! When my parents berate me for working too much, I get a great deal of satisfaction from reminding them where I got this particular value from! It’s funny – this isn’t the value I put at the top of my list, but it’s probably the only value that I really, fully live out.

This is about being generous in both my personal and professional lives; generous with my time, my energy, money… It’s about sharing things, but also myself. This value is my mother all over. She’s the kind of mother that sent three lunches to school with me every day to feed the kids who regularly turned up without lunch. Now, she’s the kind of grandparent who would gladly go without to give her grandkids the world. I think I live this one out, though I find it much easier to be generous with my wallet than with my time.

I feel a bit starved without creative outlets, so creativity – or living creatively – is definitely up there on my list of values. I try to live this out by giving myself time and space to be creative, but that’s not always possible. So I try to be creative with the little things I do every day. I think this value really developed in high school, probably as a result of my interactions with a particular teacher. I still have the beautiful card she gave me at the end of high school, and I’m grateful for her investment in me and the value of creativity that she helped me develop.

My ‘Golden Rule’
Con finished her post up by talking about the guiding principle for her life. So I thought I’d add mine onto the end of this post, too. But I’m having some trouble articulating it. I could write a manifesto on it. Or at least a couple of hundred words.

But I think it probably boils down to five little words: Love hard. Live with passion.

* The activity I run with my students is based on an assignment described in Eriksen, M. (2009). Authentic Leadership. Journal of Management Education, 33(6), 747-771.

30 posts in June: 24/30