Something I am getting more and more clear on as I get older is how much our values matter. Everyday we face decisions or challenges that question who we are or what we are going to be about.
Without knowing our values, it can be easy to lose sight of what makes us uniquely us. It also can be easy to morph into whatever the world around (or people around) expect us to be, when what the world truly needs is for more people to understand who they are and lead from that place of personal conviction, drive, and ambition. I’ve picked up a few things I’d like to share with you as I try to put some language to my own values.
Solve real problems.
Working in tech has always been a dream of mine. But sometimes, we have to look around and ask ourselves: Are we solving real problems? Like, does any of this matter. When you consider the big problems of the world, it can begin to get overwhelming: There are many people on this planet who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. Do we really need more Zoom integrations? Dashboards? Notifications? What I’m getting at with ‘solve real problems’ is a desire to make a significant impact on the world. Change that matters. For me, providing for my family is definitely a worthwhile problem to solve but the way I want to do that is by discovering who I am and helping others see the opportunities for affecting change in their own way.
People are people everywhere.
This is a helpful reminder that there are real people behind those social profiles, companies, customer service teams, service industry workers, etc. It is also a reminder that the people in charge, those in power, the leaders we look to for direction, and even the people we demonize are indeed people first and foremost. I believe that we all have inherent value, potential, and face challenges that are largely invisible to others. For the more part, we are all doing our best to navigate the world in which we find ourselves. Some do it in big, flashy, expensive ways. Others make their way through quietly serving others, only making themselves known when necessary. My personal belief is that in some mystical way, all human beings reflect a facet of the image of God. It is only through loving each other and embracing our differences that we can begin to experience the fullness of what it means to be human.
Listen first. Listen more.
Listening is, to me, one of the best ways to communicate love and respect. It can feel like people want to get the last word or don’t wait for others to finish speaking before bulldozing them with their opinion of the matter at hand. Practicing active listening in a variety of contexts has the potential to unlock deep connections and meaningful insights. From my experience going to therapy, I know that the truth is often buried a few questions deep. Let’s work on giving others the space to speak, to share, and to open up. You never know what depth may be there if you don’t have the time to listen.
Be honest. Even when it’s hard.
Okay, this one can be really hard to do. Like, really really hard. I can point to pivotal moments in my personal life, career, and friendships where being honest cost a lot. Though honesty can be costly, I believe it is far less expensive than avoiding the truth. Maybe its something you need to share, something you need help with, or a direction you want to go but are afraid of rocking the boat. Ryan Holiday writes about discovering the way forward by identifying the obstacle in front of us. We can’t always avoid or go around the hard problems. Sometimes by facing the hardest obstacles with honesty, we break through to meet better versions of ourselves and lighten our mental load.
Stay curious and teachable.
I think the one of the greatest traits of mature people I’ve met is an endless sense of curiosity. They don’t take themselves too seriously and are always available for learning or growing in new ways. I want to be like that. There are always new things to learn and perspectives to gain by listening to the experiences of others.
Know my limits. Ask for help.
As a creative professional, our ability to produce ideas and new ways of seeing what’s possible is our greatest asset. For me, it can be difficult to produce good work when I am not prioritizing my mental health. I know that I need solitude, time outside, and exercise in regular intervals to take care of myself. Often times, my best ideas come from moments in nature or time playing with my kids. I’m learning to ask for the rest I need when I begin to feel like I’m close to burnout, but I am working on proactively creating routines that support my mental health.