“Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.” – Marcus Aurelius
Several years ago, I was deciding what I wanted to do when I grew up. The job I had was good, but something was missing. It didn’t feel like it was “it.” I had little to complain about, but I firmly believe that if you don’t like what you do, it will slowly eat you up over time.
I wasn’t officially an HR professional at the time, but I had a lot of HR tasks, and I really liked them! So, I enrolled in a SHRM Essentials of HR Management course, and nothing in my professional life would ever be the same!
The teacher was a man named John Newton, and I am still friends with him to this day! John was (and is) one of the most positively passionate, enthusiastic HR professionals and advocates you will EVER know. Steve Browne and John were likely brothers from different mothers – and fathers and families… but still, I stand by that apt comparison!
John began the class by asking everyone what their mission, vision, and values were. He wasn’t asking what our organization’s mission, vision, and values were. What were OURS as individuals. He firmly believed that EVERY person needs to have those firmly outlined in their minds, otherwise, people could lose their professional way.
John described them as such:
Mission – Who you are.
Vision – What you want to be known for.
Values – What you stand for.
I still have the SHRM Essentials book in which I was frantically scribbling notes, and in it I wrote:
Mission – To leave people/organizations I’ve come into contact with in a better place.
Vision – To be known as a good person who did his best.
Values – Leadership, Consistency, Resiliency, Learning
Not bad for a first try when prompted cold! John said to take this print it out and put it somewhere you can always see it. It can be your compass when you’re not sure where you should be going.
I find that so profound, and necessary. Now more than ever, our communities seem adrift – almost chaotic. It’s as if many don’t have a compass – flailing wildly about as fires burn around. Instead of helping put the fires out, we splash kerosene on the flames watching them fan and spread. It doesn’t seem like people are focusing on doing the right thing, just the thing that they believe will make them feel better.
Feeling good isn’t always synonymous with the right thing. In fact, many times, doing the right thing is difficult, hard. I try to live my life by the mantra: Live Hard. Meaning, remember to always do the right thing. It matters not if people are looking, if you get credit for it, or if it hurts you! The right thing in and of itself is the ultimate goal. Always.
But, what is the right thing? Sometimes, it’s easy to know. Other times, not so much. That’s why values matter. If we pick the right values, we can move toward the right thing – even if we do it imperfectly.
Mark Manson rightfully argued in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck that our actions through our constant choices, not our words, determine our values. If someone claims they value friendship yet treat their friends like garbage, then they actually don’t value friendship. They value being a jerk. If someone states that they value healthy living, but then stay up all night drinking and eating garbage food, they don’t value health at all. They value being slovenly.
“We are always choosing the values by which we live and metrics by which we measure everything that happens to us. Often the same event can be good or bad, depending on the metric we choose to use. The point is, we are always choosing, whether we recognize it or not. Always.” (Manson, p. 95)
Again, this is why it’s so important to define our values, write them down, and measure oneself against them regularly. I find that writing things down is not only therapeutic, but it increases my accountability. When it comes to documentation, it’s well known in HR circles that if it’s not written down it never happened. So, too, if our values are not written down, do they exist? Can we hold ourselves accountable to those standards we’ve placed on ourselves if we’re not consistently reminding ourselves what we hold dear?
The point isn’t that if we write them down, or define them in another way, that we’re fixed and won’t ever stray! We’re human. Each and every one of us. All people, even great persons, fall off the wagon, or go astray. The point is, that when the storm knocks us off course, can we look to our written values to remind us of what we want to be so we can bring the ship back to port?
Choose values that are important, impactful – not only to you as an individual, but to the community as a whole! We are all connected. What one person chooses to value will have an impact on others.
Where do you begin? Well look inside! What kind of person are you? What kind of person do you want to be? Is there a disconnect, or is there synergy? I used to struggle with this, and then I found Stoicism. The Stoic philosophy teaches that there are four main virtues that all other virtues (values) come from: Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Moderation. This is a solid start!
Regardless of what values we choose to live by, we must be able to personify them, so long as they lead us to justice – aka, doing the right thing! Always ask yourself, am I doing what is right? Am I living up to my standards? Am I working to empower the powerless, or working to selfishly allow those with their boots on their necks to lean in harder? Ask yourself daily, is this correct, just, right? If the answer is not an immediate “yes” then stop and reassess. The hardest thing to do sometimes is to stand up and DO RIGHT. Live hard.
Over the years, my personality has evolved – as do all of ours if we’re paying attention – and with it, my mission, vision, and values. Below are the standards for which I have set for myself. I don’t always get there. That’s the point! If we were able to reach Heaven, would there be a purpose in having an earth?
When I fail, I remind myself that perseverance is one of my values. I can always choose to get back up. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the hard thing to do, so it must be done.
I’d love to know what your values are if you’re comfortable enough to share! Drop a line to me via the comment section, or message me on social media!