Let’s work backwards.
Life is the pursuit of results. We are always working towards something.
Results can take many forms.
- Personal results e.g. being a great parent, becoming fit, looking after ageing parents or giving to charity.
- Professional results e.g. reaching a certain income, gaining a promotion or building a reputation within your industry.
- External results e.g. cars, houses, watches or clothes.
- Internal results e.g. cultivating gratitude and inner peace or letting go of shame and guilt.
- Emotional results e.g. feeling happy, satisfied and fulfilled with life.
If life is the pursuit of results,
What dictates the quality of the results we achieve?
What we DO.
Action is the only thing that will change the results in our lives. We all have an internal compass that we use to guide our actions. What is that compass for you?
Feelings as a compass
Many people use their feelings as a compass. Let’s consider feelings as pleasant (e.g. happiness, contentment, peace) or unpleasant (e.g. sadness, depression, anxiety, overwhelm). Often how we feel in the moment is used to guide future behaviour. If it feels good or you expect it to, you will want to do more. If it feels sh** or that’s your expectation, you will want to do less. This is a risky game to play. Feelings by there very nature are fleeting. Doesn’t it seem risky to make decisions based on something that changes from moment to moment?
For example, public speaking may make you feel anxious. If you use how you feel as a compass for what you should do, you may avoid public speaking. In my experience, public speaking has felt uncomfortable and simultaneously become the ultimate personal development vehicle. As Warren Buffet once said, “if you can’t communicate, it’s like winking to a girl in the dark”.
Anything in life that is worthwhile, whether it’s being a great Mum or Dad, looking after your ageing parents, earning a promotion, reaching a certain income, becoming financially free, building a successful business or sustaining a happy marriage, it will generate a full range of emotions. Some of them will suck. Using your feelings as a compass for what you should do may tell you that that’s a bad thing. It’s not. It’s normal.
So then what would be a better compass? Your values.
Values as a compass
Values are ‘one’s judgement of what is important in your life’. Research suggests that what we value is a ‘combination of genetic heritage and the impact of exposure to multiple social environments, such as family, the education system, community and society at large’. In other words, our genetics and how they interact with the environment determine what we consider to be important.
Genetics + Environment —> Values
Values are stable. They don’t come and go like feelings. They can change but slowly, usually over years. For example, in my teens and twenties, I valued achievement and service. I was singularly focussed on becoming a doctor and doing plenty of charity work. Now in my early thirties, I value happiness, service, growth, family and entrepreneurship. Although my genetics hasn’t changed, my environment has. My values have slowly shifted or rather upgraded as a result. Despite these shifts, the inherent stability of values provides an exciting opportunity to use values as a compass to guide our actions.
To understand the essence of values, we can learn from the biggest companies in the world. All organisations have a set of values. Microsoft says “our values…serve as a declaration of how we treat each other, our customers, and our partners”. These values guide how they behave within the company. Let’s consider Apple and Amazon.
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple (at the time of writing), details the core values of Apple below:
- We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products.
- We believe in the simple, not the complex.
- We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make.
- We participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
- We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.
- We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.
- We don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.
You can see how the above values guide Apple products. The quality (see value 1) and simplicity of their products (see value 2) has been prominent from its inception. I still remember when they brought out the iPod as “1,000 songs in your pocket”. Genius!
Do you think the team at Apple will arrive at work next Monday and say, “I don’t feel like creating a great product today”?
Amazon is also an incredible company that values
- Customer obsession rather than competitor focus
- Passion for invention
- Commitment to operational excellence
- Long term thinking
I love books. Once I ordered a business book via Amazon at 10:30pm on a Tuesday night. The book was at my front door by 12:30pm the next day. If that doesn’t show ‘customer obsession’, I don’t know what does. These values clearly guide how they behave.
If an organisation can have a set of values that drives them towards incredible results, it makes sense for us as individuals to lean on our own values.
What are your values? What is important to you?
In the next article, I will explore how to discover your own values.
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Much love to you and of course, myself.
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