One of my favorite memories of my Grandmother is how often she would remind us that, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." I've since learned that she may have been quoting someone who said it before her, but she gets credit for it, and for the positive impact it's had in my life.
I was reminded of her great wisdom twice this week. The first time was when one of my partners, Jerry Pinney, sent a statement of his personal values. Lots of us have done "value clarification exercises," and I've done my share. But what really caught my attention was that below each of his Top 7 Values, Jerry listed specific action steps to assess whether he was living in harmony with his values.
That, my friends, takes courage! It takes guts to honestly compare our daily behavior to our highest aspirations and deepest values. And then, of course, sharing something like that with a colleague displays incredible trust. It got my attention, big time!
So, rather than ponder the implications for my own life by looking at my own behavior and values, I figured I'd read a good book. I dove into Ron Chernow's biography of George Washington. It's a wonderful book and I highly recommend it! Unfortunately, my escapist strategy didn't work very well.
Turns out, George Washington also attempted to live by a personal code of conduct. Throughout Chernow's book, a constant theme is Washington's struggles with his sense of personal responsibility, his desire to avoid gossip, to be industrious and cordial to all, while refusing to be "buddies" with those who did not share his priorities. He chose his friends carefully and avoided temptations to drink, gamble, or indulge in other questionable activities.
Chernow's biography reminded me of the importance most of our country's Founders put on following a personal Code of Conduct.
Ben Franklin had a list of 13 "virtues" which he pursued through his adult life. He chose one of the virtues and focused on it for an entire week, before moving on to the next one the following week. In this way, he focused on each of his 13 priorities in rotation, four weeks each year.
Which obviously raises the question: What are your top values?
Do you have a list? Is it written down? Do you review it frequently? Have you shared it with loved ones, your closest colleagues and friends?
And perhaps most importantly, do you have a system for measuring your progress? Does your actual behavior reflect your top priorities in terms of time, effort, thought, and investment? Are you closer to living the life you value today than you were a year ago?
What actions are you taking to demonstrate the top values in your life today, and for the rest of your life?
A couple of hundred years ago, Personal Development was commonly focused on living a virtuous, honest and moral life. Personal Development was about integrity, courage, consistency and becoming the person you wish to be.
In our generation, Personal Development revolves largely around financial success, including skills like leadership, public speaking or business. Now, these are good things! I encourage you to develop your skills in all these areas!
But I fear our society is less and less focused on morality, integrity, personal honesty and the courage to stand for our beliefs. We just don't think or talk about these things very much. And perhaps we should.
For Washington, it meant that "his word was his bond." He valued a reputation for integrity, persistence, honesty and hard work, and he meant to demonstrate these values through his daily actions. Franklin had his 13 Virtues and he worked to improve his understanding of them and his behavior, every day of his life.
"If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."