The Importance of Living a Meaningful Life Through Your Values

Values provide us a compass by which we live our lives. Although values are always present, we rarely give them much thought. Much like a compass we use on an unfamiliar hike, values provide us the platform from which we direct our lives. We judge based on the consistency of values utilized by someone.

 

The Barrett Values Center, in 2010, found, in researching more than two thousand private and public institutions in more than sixty countries, that: “Values-driven organizations are the most successful organizations on the planet. They found that values drive the culture as well as contribute to the employees’ fulfillment. In the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the noted the same outcome in companies they observed over several decades.

 

Martin Seligman, a leader in the positive psychology movement, found, through his questionnaire, that signature strengths and values fundamentally contribute to a meaningful life.

 

I remember, many years ago, thinking that emotions were fleeting and mercurial. They seemed to be missing a key ingredient to living fully.  When I was first introduced to the concept of values I thought they were a wonderful state to aspire to.  Years later, when I identified my core values, I felt a strong resonance and connection to my life. I realized that I could live from my values and when I did, life was clearer and more satisfying, with richer meaning and depth. I realized that they were my compass, the one I had been missing and to which my emotions could not relate.

 

What are your values? How cognizant are you of them on a daily basis?

Connect with Loved Ones over the Holidays by Trying This

It’s time for the family gatherings again. You know the ones I am referring to: where people cluster in their usual groups, talking about the weather, travel hiccups, politics; where people cluster around the food taking bites in short and informational filled conversations; where someone introduces a topic they know will fuel the flames of emotional reaction. Yes…those dynamics.

 

This year you can come to a family celebration prepared to add a dollop of meaningful connection. Bring a series of questions with which you can connect more personally with those you engage in conversation.

 

Start by asking someone to share something significant that has positively impacted them this year. Listen as they share that event or experience with you. Then follow up by asking them either: how this significant impact they experienced benefited them or ask them how this significant impact made them feel.  And again, just listen. When you do, you will find that they will share with you a value of theirs that is important to the core of who they are. This will connect you to them in a very personal way that small talk cannot.

 

I find that asking questions like these, at the end of the year, to be a wonderful icebreaker and connector with friends and family.

 

Let me know how the outcome of having this conversation at your family gathering. I would love to hear your comments.

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The 2nd Most Important Day in Your Life Is…

Millennials, currently under the microscope of researchers and data collectors, have been found to want to be involved in something that matters. Studies say that 87% of Millennials take into account a company’s commitment to social and environmental causes as they decide where to work.  That’s a big percentage of people looking to plug in to what matters.

 

Baby boomers, moving into retirement in huge numbers fear that retirement means retreating into irrelevancy. Shell Oil and independently the University of Zurich, found that there is a strong correlation between a rudderless retirement and early death. They each found that there is an 89% chance of death within 10 years for those without a purpose than those who have one.

 

As Mark Twain brilliantly stated: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born…and the day you find out why.”

 

Having a purpose provides a foundation for motivation and for developing the meaning in our lives that one day becomes our legacy.

 

How have you found a purpose in your life benefit you? Let me know by leaving a comment.

As They Removed Their Masks, This Choir Left Us in Tears

I recently returned from the GALA Choruses’ tenth quadrennial music festival held in Denver. With over 130 choruses and 6,500 singers from all across the U.S. and overseas, men and women commanded the various stages at the Denver Performance Art Center, the Convention Center and other downtown locations, with amazing shows.

One chorus, The Beijing Queer Choir made its debut at this festival. For this courageous and ground breaking group, joining a welcoming and supportive family of singers was very important. You see, in China, their lives as gay and lesbian people has to remain in the shadows. Family ostracization, lack of community support, and pressure from the government to marry and have children keep their identities concealed when they are performing on stage.

The members did not want to obtain individual visas for fear that “coming out” would led to harassment and imprisonment.  Although being gay is legal, it is not tolerated. Finally, three weeks before the festival in Denver began, the group was given permission to leave China and travel on a group visa, keeping their individual information protected.

Once visas were secured, plane tickets had to be purchased. As you can imagine, the cost of airline tickets this close to departure, was very high. After many conversations with various airlines, and ten days before the start of the festival, tickets were secured.

When performing in China, this eight-year-old choir performs with masks on so they cannot be individually identified. When they stepped on the Denver stage each had a mask on to cover their faces to keep their identities secret while they performed. As the interpreter talked about the great welcome and support they were experiencing in Denver, the singers, one by one, removed their masks. It was a powerful moment for the audience to watch these performers one after another, remove their masks, and reveal, for an audience, their faces, for the first time. And one singer kept their mask on to highlight the fear of retribution gay and lesbian people in Beijing have in “coming out.”

As you can imagine, the audience erupted in howling applause, tears and standing ovation for this chorus armed with courage, purpose, tenacity and commitment.

It was powerful to witness and experience the Beijing Queer Choir as they made their debut in Denver, unmasked.

Leave me a comment on how you have used courage and strength to identify and become who you are.

The Experience that Connected the Family Beyond the Photos Was Worth So Much

Knowing she was dying, Anne wanted to make sure her children knew who all the people in the pictures were. So, together, they went through five albums and hundreds of loose photos that reminded Anne of her past, her heritage, the things she did, and the people to whom she was connected by blood, but knew little about.

 

The first time I stopped by, I was shown where the photo albums and most of the loose pictures were located but Anna did not open the albums.  The second time I came over, Anne instructed two of her adult children to show me the pictures on the guest room wall and explain who everyone was in those photos. But her children were unsure of who these people were. Yes, they had listened as their Mom went over the pictures with them, but they quickly forgot the information as these people did not mean anything to them. The photos were merely pictures of the past without anything more to connect with them.

 

So when I returned to the room where Anne had set up her daily life, I asked her to step back, in her mind, to a time of her life, when she was a little girl, 10 or younger, I could see her expression change as she remembered that time in her life. I then asked her to conjure up someone, perhaps a school teacher, a religious teacher, a sports coach, a friend’s parent, an after school organizational leader, someone who had a tremendous positive impact on her. Without hesitation, she exclaimed that she was thinking of her friend, Lisa. I asked Anne to describe Lisa which Anne did, a smile growing on her face, her eyes sparkling with joy and contentment. I then asked what one stood out as being a powerful trait that Lisa had. Again, without hesitation, Anne gazed into my eyes and boldly stated: “Acceptance. Lisa showed me then, as she always has, the power and possibility of acceptance.” Delving into the importance of acceptance to Anne became a powerful point of Anne’s story. Tears welled up in her eyes as she talked about the power and beauty acceptance has had in her own life.

 

I, who has known Anne for ten years, felt a shock wave confirming my own experience of how important acceptance has been to Anne. Anne confirmed this by saying acceptance is one of the most important principles and traits to her. She smiled. I looked over at her adult children, who had witnessed this conversation and their eyes expressed a sense of shock as they just learned something about their mother they had never known. It was a profound moment of great bonding.

 

As her children witnessed a greater sense of their Mother, tears came to their eyes. They said: “We have gotten to know our mother more powerfully in this conversation and in ways we will never forget and in ways that we can carry forward and nurture. We wish we knew the people in the photographs like that. This is where the connection is, not in the scene they are in or the pose they have struck.”

The Family Mission Becomes the Family’s Valuable Compass

By drafting a family mission statement, you are providing your family a compass to guide it on its journey as a cohesive unit through the years, through individual successes and challenges as a cohesive unit This mission becomes the family’s compass to guide it as a unified unit while also building independent and productive individual lives.

Today it is common to find a break in connection within two generations of a family. Siblings grow up, form their own families and meet up again only on social media and occasional family gatherings. Without a common and shared bigger purpose their connections weaken with the growth of their own lives and families.

Having a common purpose that is actively developed and supported by all members creates bonds of trust and a community of companions that stays connected. Their compass becomes their trusted anchor and guide. It remains steadfast through their lives.

It does not take that much to create a family mission statement. Here is a simple checklist to consider as you guide your family or your clients’ families to staying connected for generations.

  • As a family, identify and talk about your individual as well as your collective values. This provides an opportunity to ask yourself both as an individual and as a family: “What matters most to us?”
  • Determine together the mission of your family. This is the opportunity to ask yourselves, as a family:” What do we stand for?”
  • Create your shared mission statement that, as a unified body, you want to develop with your strong foundation of unified values. This becomes your community compass
  • Discuss how each individual can add meaning to the family’s shared purpose and mission with their strengths and values and actions that strengthen the mission and their bond.

 

Having a family mission sets roots for a family’s heritage and legacy to develop for years and generations to come. It is a rich compass for a family to nurture and perpetuate.  

Leave me a comment with your thoughts on building a family compass by finding its mission. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic

Silence is a Problem

I am amazed how easy it can be to be silent on subjects that need addressing.

 

I was talking to a gentleman at the gym the other day who mentioned that he was retiring in a couple of weeks. I asked him how he had prepared for this dramatic change and he laughed. He said he had asked his company if he could continue to use his office for eighteen months and be a resource for younger workers when they needed to have more of the background to certain projects. After all, he continued, he knew all the players, the projects, the problems, the landmines and great solutions. How often do you think employees will drop in his office and ask him for background information on a project? I have my guess.

 

 

The gentleman at the gym does not want to be home all day and is looking for a place to be for a while as he figures out his “real next move.”

 

Why is silence so important that we will use it to quell meaningful discussion? How can subjects be introduced when we are apprehensive about possible outcomes?

 

Asking for a conversation can result in delays or change of subject. The core of the matter is not addressed. Meanwhile time goes by, consequences are built.

 

I think it is important for any professional whose job is based on relationship building to be the catalyst to setting a presentable stage for sensitive or silent topics. We have to be willing, with compassion, understanding, wisdom, respect, love, discernment, and integrity be able to focus on and sustain the level of care and mastery to see the subject through to its best conclusion.

 

Tell me your thoughts on dealing with silence when silence is a mask to something more important. Because this is so important, I will examine the topic of dealing with the strength of silence again next time.

Can You See It? The Family Mountain Moved

In your own family, it can be hard to be seen differently by your adult siblings than how they viewed you when you were young.

Sometimes, adding a new dimension to that view, is tantamount to moving a mountain. Because of this, it took a l-o-n-g time for me to create bridges of communication between remaining members of my family. But it was important for me to do so. Because of the work I do with individuals and families, guiding them to stay connected for generations, I wanted to bring the same tools to my own family.

We are very competitive, very stoic, very aloof, and somewhat questioning of each other’s motives. This makes for a very challenging environment to talking about family purpose, connection and legacy. The family is able to dismiss the subject in a short dismissive conversation, one that goes like this: “We don’t need to do that. We’re fine. Others can do that if they want. We know what we stand for and if one of us doesn’t, they’ll figure it out.”

I knew my family would be one of the toughest families to bring together for anything other than the customary family events but after a conscientious many year building of trust, safety and deeper connection, the remaining 3 branches to the trunk are beginning to communicate with each other. Wow, what an experience this is. From not being able to recognize a sibling in a lineup of three, to communicating by letter, phone, and social media, is a tremendous change. From not acknowledging each other to asking about each other’s well-being is a huge breakthrough. From not being in the same room together for years to hosting an easy pre dinner social, the family is beginning to talk. And now, we may even have a gathering to put the family story together for future generations.

The mountain is moving…at least in our family. It was worth the focused attention to bringing the family back together.

Is your family preserving or resurrecting its connection? Leave a comment on what’s going on in your family.

Even a Family Tree Needs Nourished Roots to Flourish.

I know where my roots are because I read the last name of my great, great, great, great grandfather on a dividend check I receive from the family every quarter. My last name is not the same as the ‘founding father’ as I come from one of the branches, not the trunk of the family tree.” That was the beginning of a recent encounter with a Gen Y member of a family that continues to build and develop its legacy now into its sixth generation.

He continued: “I’ve Googled the man we see pictures of at the family reunions because I needed to know more about our origins. I felt isolated from the roots.  I needed to know who he was and find out what we had in common. Although it was weird to have to research him online, I discovered something in my research.”   And this is where his matter of fact tone became excited like he had just found out where the hidden treasure he had been seeking was buried.

“I discovered that, although I have a different last name than he, I am a lot like him; an entrepreneur who really enjoys the challenges and payoffs of risk in business, someone who enjoys building businesses. In fact, one of my uncles recognized the commonality between me and 5 times great grandfather. This uncle has the same last name as our ancestor. He told me that I hold the spirit of our ancestor and wanted to nourish that in me.”

What stunned this Millennial family member was, even with their annual meetings and reunion, how removed from the family tree some family members felt.  This Millennial noticed how comfortable his generation was in receiving dividends from the family fortune and not asking any questions about its origin, its continuation, its purpose, or how they could impact its amount. The family no longer even talked about the meaning of the money or where it came from. They just wanted it to feed their lifestyles without contributing to its growth or its maintenance.

This Gen Yer asked and was given the opportunity to make a presentation at a recent family reunion. He titled it: ‘Don’t Kill the Tree.’ He talked about the value of the roots, his great, great, great, great grandfather had set to sustain their family for generations. He said he felt uncomfortable with receiving a check every quarter for doing nothing.  He introduced an idea to the family, a new tradition of mentoring. New family members would be coached by an established member in understanding the history of their family’s financial success and tie it to the principles the family was founded on.  He wanted and wanted others to know the value of the money they were receiving.

This young man earns my applause.  He understands that the dividends, while providing income, will not, in itself, keep the family together. As this young man noted about his family, the continuing dividend made his family quiet, complacent and uninvolved. He wanted to bring the heart and heartbeat back to the family tree, restore the essence of his family and the values expressed by the ‘roots’, his great, great, great, great, grandfather set. All it takes is nourishing the root of the tree.

What is your family doing to nourish its roots for generations to come? What do you see other families doing to sustain their roots?  Leave a comment.

You Are not the only one who can Feel Unfairly Treated

You are out for dinner with friends and someone you know happens to enter the restaurant. She sits at another table. During your dinner, you casually glance over at the other table and hear her talk about tickets to the sold out Adele show she won on a radio show. You think to yourself. “That’s not fair. I must have hit refresh a 1,000 times. I should have been able to get tickets” Unfortunately, the only tickets you can get now are through the secondary market and they have already tripled in price in the area you want to sit.  As you try to reengage with your dinner friends, you feel the “it’s not fair, I never get what I want” feeling wash over you. You know you have to shake it off.

You are not alone. Your best friend has the same feelings. No, not that best friend, I am talking about the friend that is always there for you, your canine companion. Cognitive scientists working with dogs have found that dogs respond to their interpretive feeling of unfairness. These researchers have found that when dogs are put into a situation where they perform the same action, like shaking a paw, and do not receive the same reward, the one being treated “less well” withdraws.

Austrian dog cognitive researchers conducted a test where different levels of rewards were given to dogs for participating in an experiment: none, yummy smelling dark bread, and aromatic laden sausage. The researchers found an interesting outcome to this experiment that warranted 30 paw shakes. When one dog was rewarded in the early stages of the count, and other not, the unrewarded dog stopped “presenting their paw” after 12 times and was visibly agitated at the disparity of treatment. When neither dog was given a reward, they both needed verbal prompting to continue “presenting their paw” and completely stopped “presenting” after 20 times. The “game” had lost its appeal and was no longer worth playing for the dogs when their willingness to join in did not result in a “reward.”

Through their and other researchers’ studies, it has been concluded that dogs and other social carnivores understand the concept of being “treated less well” and respond accordingly. Responses can include revenge, aggression, withdrawing, sadness, pride, hierarchal order and more.

Do you need to settle for a feeling of being treated unfairly? I don’t think so. I think people have a secret sauce that can remove them from reacting like this. The secret sauce is in your values. When you use your values consciously, as a way of being, you can bypass many of the reactive emotions that demand and command immediate outcomes. When you live with your values at the forefront of your life, you think and act differently. You look to effect the world you live in with wisdom rather than with reaction, effect the world through a bigger lens rather than though a reactive filter.

Tell me what you discover as you ponder the insights in this blog.