I went to a talk last week given by Bill Grace, the founder of The Center for Ethical Leadership. I’ve had contact with this group before, having worked with them on the Youth Against Violence initiative a couple of years ago (which I wrote about here), but I’ve never had a chance to meet Bill or hear him speak. It was an interesting evening, a discussion of ethical leadership and the need for individuals to access their core values in order to guide their personal journey into leadership. Toward the end of the evening Bill led us through an exercise that would highlight these values for each of us. From a list of 20-30 words we were asked to select the top 10 that resonated for us. From there we had to narrow to 5, then 3. The list I ended up with surprised me. It was late in the evening; I was tired and didn’t want to think too much about the exercise … which is probably the best way to tackle it. I just went with my initial gut, even when my gut was like, “ugh, joy? really? joy is one of your top 3 values? so soft” Yet when I put the 3 values together I was able to see a complete picture of who I am; they created the space in which I set my passions. Between these three words I can weave all sorts of stories and past histories and personal challenges.
Joy embodies all that makes life beautiful. It carries the spirit of thanks and gratitude, an expression of creation and fulfillment. Joy brings the circle around to completion; it is an act of appreciation and awe. I think of the song we sing as we exit mass on Christmas eve, Joy to the world … let heaven and nature sing. Being joyful comes so naturally in children and it’s something to emulate as adults. When my son is joyful, which he was this morning as we walked to school, he skips and sings and twirls around. He runs up to the other kids and giggles and says ‘oh hi!’ He is the first at the door waiting for the teacher and runs up the steps, pulling his jacket off as he goes. Witnessing joy is contagious. It holds within itself peace and grace and all things that make life good.
Integrity is something I certainly value but it never occurred to me that it was one of my values. Are my words aligned with my actions? Are my thoughts aligned with my true self? When I am in sync with myself, aligned from the inside out, all systems are go. I can feel this buzzing that resonates with the world around me. It’s like the barrier of my skin no longer keeps me separate from everything else; there is a merging with my environment that feels like prayer. These moments are strung out along the timeline of my life, certainly not a constant state of being. Maintaining that kind of integrity is a challenge, but I like to think it’s a spectrum, with the hovering, buzzing days as the pinnacle of enlightenment. This isn’t a place you can live, but you can strive for it every day.
Truth really struck me as an odd choice as a value because I don’t believe in an absolute truth. Placing truth as a value seems like a slippery slope. I don’t believe there is one right answer and some of us have it and others just need to be brought around. I think of truth as a splintered prism of light: we each have a piece of it and together these truths create a framework of humanity. Being aware of your own truth and being true to yourself takes a lot of courage. Speaking your truth, being authentic and living with intention is another value I struggle with and try to bring into being every day. “I hold these truths to be self evident” is the same as saying This I Believe, which is really a challenge to illuminate your values. A full circle, again. It’s liberating when you look at the core of what you hold as truth in your heart. And once you’ve arrived at that place, it is divine to begin living it, speaking it, and acting on it.
So after writing all this down and puttering about in the space created between these values, a friend sent me the following video of Brene Brown (whom I’ve also written about here before). I just found it to be such lovely timing, to hear from Brene directly about vulnerability and see some of the same values highlighted in her research findings. What strikes me about all of this, particularly in rereading the posts I highlight here, is that I *know* this. I am saying the same things over and over again. What will it take for me to move my voice outward and begin the journey?