I sat in the sparse kitchen of our rental home sharing stories of my school day with Mom. She listened intently, encouraging me to continue. I was her outlet to this new city.
Dad was away at “work”, chasing a dream here in Arizona, while all we had ever known remained a world away in South Dakota. This would be the place. This would be the opportunity. Soon, we would “make it”. Wealth without work… perfect!
But today, like most days before and many days after, Mom remained home, stranded, lonely, isolated with her thoughts and helplessness.
Soon, Dad arrived home, and interrupted our chat in the kitchen. “What’s for dinner?”, he asked.
Mom looked up, opened the fridge to reveal a single wrapped slice of Kraft cheese. She then opened the cupboard. On the bottom shelf sat a partial bag of Purina Dog Chow for our spaniel, and on the middle shelf lay half a bag of dry egg noodles strapped tight with a rubber band.
Mom turned to look at Dad. No words were spoken. Dad shrugged his shoulders, and somewhat contently walked to his recliner in the living room and took a nap… for the night.
This was a valley.
Not the refreshing view from above, with a blue sky on the horizon and a meandering stream in the distance. A view of rock walls, grey skies. A view of up, but clearly not out.
In that silent moment, without me even knowing, the way I interacted with the world changed forever. My brain captured every smell, sound, and sight of that moment and locked it down tight. It captured the feeling of hunger in my stomach. And, it wrapped itself around the unimaginable pain in my heart, seeing Mom stand helplessly alone. I still feel a weight just left of center in my chest, as I type this sentence.
Only now, forty years later… am I able to see the good in that day. It shaped my decisions, my relationships, my soul. In fact, I remind myself of that valley as I recite my core values to begin every day.
This particular core value is: Success has no shortcuts. (gather wisdom with passion & determination in every thing you do!)
And there you have it. Our next step to our best self. Understanding our core values.
After several weeks of reflection around Connection, Presence, Gratitude, Permission & Courage… it is time to dig deeper. Remember, no judging here. No right or wrong… just “is”.
That said, let’s frame up our core values. This process is absolutely key to aligning our daily actions with the often silent passion and energy deep inside us. With my “valley” experience shared above, you already understand how this works. Have fun, and let me know if I can help you (my email is firstname.lastname@example.org).
You can likely write down some things that mean a lot to you and make you who you are. That’s a good start. However, I found an exercise that really helped me uncover the depth behind why my core values exist.
The exercise is called “Mountains and Valleys”, authored by Dave Logan (of Tribal Leadership fame). You can open the core value tool here: How to find your company’s core values ). And, here is my coaching:
- Session 1: Set aside about 45 minutes, in a quiet space.
- Coffee optional, but recommended… Venti Sumatra Blend seems to work well for most.
- Go to page 2… and begin.
- You will find the 180-degree difference in mountains and valleys reinforcing a “I really want this to happen more” vs. a “I don’t ever want anyone to experience this” kind of story. Don’t get caught up in the perfect words or phrases. Just let it flow… capturing things the best you can.
- Stop… and get back to your day.
- Session 2: Set aside 30 min to reflect on your first draft… does it still make sense? Adjust core value concepts in rough terms as you see fit.
- Session 3: Grab 30 min to tighten up the words/phrases/memory elements. Honestly, I found a need to tweak my phrases for several months until they felt really natural.
- Reach out to others (including me, if you’d like) to