Visions are values projected outward to the future. Values are visions turned inward. Both reflect and create each other in a synergistic — often unconscious — interrelationship. To see it, we need to be it. Intertwined visions and values are the core of personal, team, and organizational leadership.
As with our visions or pictures of the future, we all have interlocked principles, beliefs, or values. Some we’re very aware of, others not so much. Whether we embrace optimism-pessimism or hopefulness-helplessness, we “magnetize” and draw like-minded people and circumstances toward us. This further reinforces our expectations and beliefs on the range of reality. What we get is what we are.
Our values are what we value. We all have a hierarchy of values. This is our sense of what’s most, through to what’s least, important to us. Our values hierarchy is a lengthy one. It includes health, family, security, wealth, cooperation, competitiveness, meaningful work, peace of mind, making a difference, friendships, innovation, status, happiness, freedom, adventure, spirituality, power, accomplishment, wisdom, love, creativity, integrity, participation, service, loyalty, pride, progress, teamwork, growth, development, helping others, compassion, physical or sensory pleasures, quality, order, control, respect, self-image, and so on.
Our values often clash. This usually creates opposing forces to be balanced. For example, business success and family have long been high on my values hierarchy. One evening when our son Chris was about two and half years old, I was heading out the door on another business trip; Chris turned in his highchair, focused his big blue eyes up at me, and asked, “Are you going home now, daddy?” Many months and many trips later, I called home from my hotel room. His younger sister Jennifer answered the phone and asked, “Are you my real daddy?” If Heather and I didn’t have such a close and trusting relationship, I might begin to wonder…
Balancing professional and family effectiveness has been a constant effort. Both are important to me. But at that point in my life, I was drifting toward becoming a business success and a family failure. Unless I changed, I would become “Uncle Dad,” and Heather would be a single mother with a part-time husband dropping in occasionally. That’s when Heather and I began our decades-long practice of joint visioning to balance our goals and priorities. This helped us focus on growing our business, marriage, and family through very challenging times.
In his book, “Making a Life Making a Living: Reclaiming your Purpose and Passion in Business and in Life,” Mark Alboin powerfully articulated what I was feeling about a few of my core values, “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls — work, family, health, friends, and spirit. Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will never be the same.”
Over the years, I missed out on speaking, workshop, and retreat business. At times, I haven’t looked very responsive or accommodating to important customers (another key value of mine). But restricting my travel and moving my office into our house improved our family time. And our business flourished. Even better, our three adult children are now married and living within 15 minutes of us now focusing on juggling their values. And they’re repaying those challenging teenage years with six of the cutest, smartest, and most delightful grandkids the world has ever seen!
In “The Art of Virtue: His Formula for Successful Living,” George Rogers compiled the writings of Benjamin Franklin. Here he shows how our values shape our choices and create our future, “We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we’ve selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.”
Visions and values are an entangled whole. One grows from, and in turn, spawns the other. Both provide the basis for the skills we choose to develop, time we decide to invest, and habits we select to develop.
The vision and values we choose to fix in our minds today determines tomorrow’s character and culture. We start to change who we’re becoming and where we’re headed when we change what we value and picture in our future.