Recently I wrote about sticking to your values as both a person and a business owner. If you missed that one, you can read it here. But what happens if you’re not super clear on what your values are? What if you have really blurry lines in the sand? That’s ok. Values take time to understand and develop. And there is a super good chance that you do know what your values are, you just don’t recognize these things as values.
To make this distinction a little easier, let’s talk about values as boundaries really quick. I’m sure that you’ve heard that as a small business owner, you need boundaries not just for a successful business, but also to keep your crap together as a one person business. And if you have a team, that’s even more important.
So rather than looking to your business, look inside. What are your personal boundaries? I’m pretty sure we can add a couple to the list pretty universally.
- Don’t hurt people or yourself
- Don’t steal or do icky stuff
And of course all the other stuff that makes you a decent individual. But this translates. So now let’s go through the step by step for figuring out what the rest of your boundaries are and how that leads to establishing values.
Step 1: Get Comfy With The Idea Of Having Values
I know this sounds like a really weird one but you’d be surprised how uncomfortable having “a set of values” can be. I personally have this thing about the fire and brimstone type preacher (as over exaggerated as possible) sounding off in my head every time I think “set of values.” That could be just me, but hey, I thought I’d share.
Like I was saying a bit earlier, chances are that you have a way that you expect yourself to behave in the world. This translates so pretty into business. Obviously the illegal stuff is a big no-no and where you fall personally on certain issues may cause lines to be a bit more firm, but generally the set of values that you live your life by can be applied to business as well.
Sharing just for sharing’s sake, here is my list of values.
- Solutions to problems
- Helping where I can, however that may be
- Family is the single most important thing in this world
- Strong relationships make the world go ‘round
- We get one shot to live so live how you want
- There is a place for everyone in this world
- The universe has a balance that will always be maintained
These double as both my personal and business values, even the bit about family coming first. That is a boundary that I have set in my business and in my personal life.
Step 2: Write It Down
I know this seems like my go-to advice for everything, but there is a reason for this.
There is real power in putting something into the physical world.
When it comes to something as personal and intensive as determining what your concrete values are, making them a real, tangible thing by putting actual pen to paper can benefit you to make sure that they are what you actually stand for.
Don’t want to write them down? That’s cool. Not everyone is on board with paper and pen and that is just fine. Type those bad boys up and make them big. Like 24pt font. Get them to take up as much room on a page as possible. Just make sure you can’t miss ‘em.
Step 3: Prioritize
This can be difficult, not going to lie. Something that we as a society don’t seem to understand is the actual meaning of the word priority.
I have something to show you. Really quick, open a new tab and follow these steps.
Go to Google’s home search
Type in “priority meaning.”
Open another tab and go to Google.
Type in “priorities meaning.”
See the difference? Yeah. There isn’t one.
The reason for this is because “priorities” as we think of them aren’t several things. It is supposed to be used as a singular word. So when you are putting your values in order, there should be one absolute non-negotiable thing that you hold very dear. This can be family, your health, personal relationships, etc. That one thing should always be at the forefront. After that, you can figure out which values you may or may not be willing to bend on.
Here’s the trick about values. Sometimes, we do things that makes us raise an eyebrow, but doesn’t sound off the alarms. Anything that sets off those crazy alarms in your head that make you think of Red October, is a no-go.
Step 4: Put Them Where They Can Be Seen
This is a two part single thing (holy hope that makes sense.)
The first part of this is making sure that you can see them. If you can’t see them, if you can’t have them in front of your eyeballs, reminding you that this is what you stand for no matter how [insert your desperate move or panic mode thing here], then you are much less likely to actually adhere to the values that you have. These aren’t a list of rules, these are boundaries that you set for how you want to live/conduct business. Outlining these in a specific and visual way keeps your choices front and center. And I don’t know about you, but choices that are front and center are a heck of alot easier to maintain.
Part two of this single thing is making them visible to your people. This is where those blog posts come in. Introduce yourself and let people know who you are and what you stand for. I know you might be thinking that this would be a great thing to put into your about page, and you’re not wrong, but your about page should be about how you can help someone else, not your life story (I have and think I continue to be so stinkin’ guilty of this. I’m working on an update.) So unless you want to tell people how your set of values (a viable option) helps them, writing them into your introduction post is a groovy way to get that out there. Have a FAQ? Link back to that introduction. Want to include some personal stuff in your about content? Great. Link back to your introduction in a “get to know me a little better” kind of way.
Any way that you decide to publicly proclaim your values isn’t wrong. Sharing is caring and by sharing your values publicly, you’re setting a precedent.
Frankly, this is one way to figure out your values for life and in business. There really is no right or wrong way, but I have found that using this method gets me thinking deeper and articulating better. There is something truly powerful about using a process to figure all of it out rather than expecting it to just roll out of you.
Do you have a way that you figure this kind of thing out? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!