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This past week I updated my personal values. My previous list was (in order of priority):
My new list is:
- Impact/making a difference
I normally update my values every 3-6 months, and the previous list was about 5 months old. These lists don’t represent my overall global life values. What they represent is what I consciously want to focus on for the next several months. They act like a compass, helping me decide which way to go whenever I need to make key decisions. I select these values to sharpen my short-range focus, so I can end up where I want to be six months from now. Once I hit that milestone, I usually need different values to hit the next one.
If you have a lot of different goals, values tell you where to focus your energy. If you really want to quit smoking, for example, you can temporarily make “health” your #1 value, so that it guides all your decisions. Once you’re satisfied you’ve permanently quit though, you might bump health down a few notches and concentrate on something else for a while.
Most books I’ve read that cover values only go so far as uncovering the values you already have, but all that does is tell you what’s been conditioned into you already. I find it much better to list the values you need to follow in order to gain the results you want, and then start making conscious decisions based on those values.
My old values list represents the values I selected to navigate the transition out of game publishing and into writing and speaking full-time. I’m now already working on my writing and speaking career full-time, so it was a good time to update my values to decide what kind of compass I’ll need for the next phase, which is to build my new career into an enterprise with a positive cashflow. Right now my income from writing and speaking is basically $0, so I’m just at the beginning. I’m also going to encounter a number of new expenses in the next few months — for starters, working in the gaming industry for a decade didn’t exactly equip me with the kind of wardrobe needed for professional speaking. I only own one suit, and I’ve already worn it more times this year than I probably have in the previous 10 years combined. Hmm… I wonder if these “speaker clothes” would be tax deductible then. I’d imagine you could make a pretty good case that they would be. I’ll have to check on that.
Some comments on these values changes….
As I navigated the transition from one career to another, I wanted growth to be my highest value; that was the driving force behind the change — to switch to a career that would give me a lot more growth potential. But I also needed to navigate the tricky change with tremendous intelligence and reason and not jump into things blindly, so that was my #2 value. And with my #3 value of clarity/focus, I spent a lot of time carefully thinking things through. Even so, I still made some mistakes (like starting a book project I later had to cancel), but those were largely due to factors I couldn’t foresee. Overall the transition went pretty smoothly, and most of it went better than my (fairly conservative) plans anticipated. The other values on my original list should be pretty straightforward, so I won’t comment on those specifically.
In creating my new values list, I bumped clarity/focus to the #1 spot. I’m moving very rapidly into a new business, so it’s extremely important to me that I remain intensely goal-oriented and laser-focused from the very beginning. Just as I learned from my shareware business, any products I develop today may still be selling in 10 years. The decisions I make over the next few months need to be as sharp as possible. And these decisions must be guided by a crystal-clear vision. The best way to predict the future is to create it.
Next, I moved health/vitality/fitness up to spot #2. This is a pretty severe change for me. Public speaking requires a lot of energy, so it’s hard to be a really dynamic speaker if you’re not in great shape. I also think that when a speaker is in outstanding physical condition, it only adds to his/her credibility. When I see an overweight speaker talking about success, it makes me wonder why this person hasn’t been successful with their own body; it sends a message of incongruency. I currently weigh 179 lbs (at 6’0″), and I want to reduce that to 165. It’s not a major change, but I want to keep my standards very high in this area for the next few months. Once I hit that goal I can drop this value back down a few notches. But for now I want it high, so I make fitness a very high conscious priority. I think the last time I had this value in such a high position was about 5 years ago when I was exercising 2-3 hours per day (running with a marathon-training group, weight training, and Tae Kwon Do). So when I make this area of my life a priority, I know I can really go far with it. I understand now why Tony Robbins made health/vitality his #1 value (as he wrote in Awaken the Giant Within); he has to be in outstanding physical condition to display such sustained energy in his seminars (which often go from 9am to 1am for several days in a row).
Peace is my new #3 value. This one has never been on my list before, so I’m adding it in partly as an experiment. Since I’m going through a lot of fast-paced changes, I think it will be helpful to consciously focus on maintaining a state of inner peace. I don’t want to work myself to death or stress over things that don’t matter. So this is sort of a “stress management” value. Last night I did a one-hour meditation as conscious choice to manifest this value, and that really helped me relax. Plus I think this value fits nicely with the one below it…
#4 is connection/empathy. Whereas getting to this point in my transition involved mostly focusing on “private victory” values, speaking and writing requires values that are more “public victory” oriented. I’ve been reading the bios of many successful speakers, and one pattern I’ve noticed is that great speakers are able to form a deep emotional connection with their audiences. They don’t give memorized or canned speeches — they adapt the speech in real-time based on audience response. I was utterly amazed to learn that MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech wasn’t pre-planned; he delivered it impromptu. I can only wield this audience-adaptation ability to a very limited degree right now. So I think building my skill at emotionally connecting with people will help a great deal, not just with audiences but also one-on-one. Plus this value should help me avoid the guru trap where speakers make themselves appear too perfect, making it harder for audiences to relate to them. It’s tricky to balance giving out useful information and promoting yourself as an expert while maintaining a strong emotional bond with the audience as a real person. One of the best speakers in this area is Barbara De Angelis. I’ll be seeing her speak here in Vegas next month. My wife is quite happy to see this value so high on my list. 🙂
#5 is just a drop-down from the original list. I added #6, honor/honesty, so I consciously remember to focus on being impeccably ethical in all my dealings as I start out in this business. I don’t know if this will be an issue in the speaking business, but when I started in the retail games business back in the mid-90s, I encountered loads of dishonesty and dishonorable behavior when dealing with publishers and agents, and I tried to put up with such people when I should have just walked away. I also want to be guided by a strong sense of honor and integrity. For example, I wouldn’t give a speech that would help McDonald’s increase its sales, no matter how much money they offered me. But I could give a speech that would help McDonald’s employees think more consciously about how their actions were affecting the planet. Because there are a lot of corporations whose actions run contrary to my sense of ethics, there’s a good chance this value will lead me more in the direction of public seminars as opposed to doing corporate-paid speaking. I want to start focusing on this value now, so I don’t fall into the kind of trap where my income and my sense of honor are at odds with each other. This was a really easy value for me to satisfy in my shareware business because I had so much control over everything, so I just refused to work with people who were dishonorable or dishonest. But since I’m treading into unfamiliar territory, I want to be extra-cautious in determining which people I do business with.
Courage at #7 carries over from the original list. I’m sure I’ll encounter more situations where I’ll have to exercise this value to take on challenges that I might not feel quite ready for.
#8, fun/humor, is a reminder to focus on enjoying what I do and also to bring lots of humor to my speeches. Injecting humor into my speeches is definitely one of my strengths, and humor is a great way to maintain an audience’s interest. My speeches that included lots of humor have always gone better than those with little or no humor, and they’re also a lot more fun to deliver as well.
Excellence/mastery at #9 is a new addition. Since I’m just starting out in this new career, it’s important for me to work hard at becoming outstanding at what I do. I don’t just want to be a good speaker or even a great one. I want to be one of the best, which means working hard over the next decade to get better and better every year. I’ve also learned that it’s important to maintain very high standards right out of the gate; if you go pro and behave like an amateur or conduct yourself unprofessionally, you can wreck your reputation and have a hard time recovering. But I put this value below courage because I think there’s more risk of me holding myself back unnecessarily as opposed to taking on challenges I’m really not ready for. I already have a decade of experience running a business full-time; otherwise, this value would probably need to be higher.
#10, impact & making a difference is what speaking is all about for me. All the higher values serve to reinforce this one. And finally, growth at #11 is a reminder to continue to push myself if I ever hit a new plateau at some point.
I was able to drop several values from the original list either because I’ve reached the point where I can afford to take them for granted for a while, or I don’t really need to focus on them consciously during this period. For example, I’m already feeling so driven right now that I don’t need to consciously think about doing things to feed my drive.
I’m really pleased with this new values list, since I feel it accurately reflects where I need to focus my attention during the next several months. Since I rely on these values to make decisions, my behavior shifts right along with them, and therefore so do my results. Whenever I have to make a decision, I just ask, “What would a person with these values in this particular order do in this situation?” I’m certainly not perfect at being true to my values, but I stick with them well enough that it really makes a big difference.
Even though this entry is all about my own personal values, hopefully if you’ve read this far, you’ve picked up some ideas you can apply to your own life to live more consciously. If you want ideas for brainstorming your own values, I typed up a list of over 300 values here. Also, I’m working on a new article that goes even deeper into this subject and which will guide you through the process of creating your own values list; with any luck I’ll be able to post it this week.