Writing About Your Values

A group of friends and I recently hiked three mountains in one morning. While climbing the second mountain, a very kind gentleman stopped me and asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like David Beckham?” I wish I could’ve seen the look on my face. I responded with a smile, a “No.”, and “But, thank you for your kind words.

Side note – I have been told that I look like Kevin Bacon, Hugh Jackman, a young Mitt Romney… and when I wear black… Johnny Cash. I don’t see the resemblance(s).

The gentleman then asked to have his picture taken with me. I obliged and then continued up the mountain, much to the amusement of my friends. Right before I went to bed that evening, I typed multiple lines in my journal about how thankful I was for that gentleman to stop and brighten our day.

Do you keep a journal? If so, what do you write, or type, in it? If you don’t keep a journal, what’s preventing you from doing so?

I ask my executive coaching clients a series of questions designed to reveal meaningful information from their past, who they are in the present, and their hopes for the future. After searching for patterns of values, interests, motivators, and behavioral styles, we begin writing personal intention, ambition, and value proposition statements. These statements are designed to help the clients feel a deeper connection to their life’s mission (intention), their short-term 3-year goals (ambition), and what makes them unique in the marketplace (value proposition).

An integral component of this process is relating the clients’ daily activities to their intention statements. The intention serves as a guiding star when the client is confronted with difficult choices, stress, or uncertainty. With time, confidence builds and it becomes much easier to openly discuss and use the intention statement in a variety of settings.

Often, I will ask clients to consider practicing positive psychology. They can do simple things such as exercise, meditate, deliver a random act of kindness, send a positive email, or keep a daily journal. Watch Shawn Achor’s TED Talk, The Happy Secret to Better Work to learn more. With the journal, if they can close their day by writing, or typing, about how the day’s events connect to their personal intention (their personal values), they’ll likely feel better through the emotional ups and downs life throws our way.

Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal, in her book The Upside of Stress found the following –
It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience.

In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.

If you desire to be healthier, increase your energy levels, or have a more positive attitude, take up to 10 minutes each day to write out your life’s mission/Intention/most important personal values and then describe how the day’s events directly connected with it/them. Not only will the process help to reveal the meaning behind stressful events, it’ll help keep your values top of mind, and provide direct proof of how and why your work connects with your life’s mission.

For transparency’s sake, my intention is to unlock human potential and one personal value is to continually serve others. Although our time together was short, and a bit uncomfortable for me, I’m thankful I could serve the gentleman on the mountain.

When are you going to start writing about your values?