Photo by Paul Flessland
You hear a lot about values these days. There are endless anecdotes that explain how people use their values to stay motivated. There is, after all, a built-in motivational quality to values that get to the “why” of what you do. I’ve read some inspirational stories here in Fargo INC! on this very topic.
There are varying degrees to which you might have an understanding of your values. You might have a casual understanding, having thought about them a few times in the past year. Or they might be, as a friend of mine says, “baked into your molecules”—synthesized, defined, revised, and evolved consciously and consistently over years of trials and successes.
Of course, there are varying degrees between these two as well. It’s typically the latter group of people whose values motivate and inspire them every day.
It’s important to understand that the motivational, inspirational side of values aren’t always enough to get the most out of every person, every day. Perhaps counterintuitively, it can be just as critical to understanding the practical, utilitarian benefits of really understanding your values.
This month’s article won’t be a detailed explanation about how to discover and define your values. The “how” could come in a later article. Discovering and defining values can take weeks, and in my case, months, to begin to understand what’s really at the core of what makes a person tick.
Today, I want to share two ways that discovering and knowing your values can have a practical influence on your life. They both are related to how you spend your time. One helps you filter out distractions, and the other defines the difference between who you want to be and who you are. Hint: There’s often a big difference.
OPPORTUNITIES OR DISTRACTIONS?
Every day, we get out into the world and are flooded with information. Some of it represents legitimate opportunities. However, many, if not most of them, are just distractions. Our inboxes are overflowing, and our social media feeds can get overwhelming. How do you tell what is worth your time and what isn’t?
“Really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”
How much time do you spend deciding what is a legitimate opportunity and what is a frivolous distraction? How fine is the line between these two?
If you are crystal-clear about your values, you will use them to quickly filter out the distractions and deal with the real opportunities.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Warren Buffett, as he summarizes this filtering system. He says, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”
If you’re going to get anything done in your business, you can’t take forever to decide what to say “yes” to. It’s critical to use your values to be the main component of the filter.
Every minute you spend deciding whether to give something your attention is a minute you’re not taking action on a good opportunity. You can’t get that minute back. You can’t get the minutes or hours back that you spend pursuing projects that don’t align with your values.
The best way to take back time spent on distractions is to filter them out before they take up an appreciable amount of your time.
ASPIRATION AND REALITY
Many sports fans are gearing up to enjoy our favorite football team this coming season. More than ever, we’ve come to expect a lot of supporting information about the game from detailed scoreboards, video boards, and audio cues from the announcers and sound systems.
Could you imagine what kind of game experience you’d have if you were only allowed to see the scoreboard or hear the announcers at the very end of the game? If you’re like me, you frequently check the scoreboard to see the down and distance, time left in the quarter, timeouts left and other stats that help me anticipate what type of play to expect.
Now, think about it from the coaches’ and players’ perspective. It’s critical that they know the exact situation and the precise results of their previous decisions so they can most effectively call the next play. A critical role of the coaching staff is to keep detailed records of every play, including the situation that led up to the play and the results of the play. This real-time, detailed information is evaluated against the objectives and goals set before the game.
In your life and your business, you are the player, the coach, and the spectator—maybe all three.
Coaches make adjustments based on the difference between the game plan and the actual results. Imagine if they stopped keeping track of their actual results and the scenarios in which those results were achieved. I can guarantee that the team wouldn’t be a contender, let alone a championship team.
In your life and your business, you are the player, the coach, and the spectator—maybe all three. For many reasons, it’s critical that you not just know the score, but many other aspects of “the game” that inform your decision-making.
You wouldn’t mistake pre-game objectives with actual game results. One of the easiest mistakes you can make when identifying and defining your values is to define your aspirations (who you want to be) instead of who you are.
Daydream for a minute about what you would do if a big pile of money landed in your bank account. Now, think about what you can do with the actual account balance. The difference between those two is the difference between aspirations and reality.
Being clear about your values allows you to quickly assess the difference between who you are and who you want to be. There are many resources you can use that help you figure out what your aspirations are. Knowing the facts also helps you understand whether or not you are moving closer to your aspirations.
Are you spending your time moving closer to your aspirations or further away? Are you spending your time on things that align with your values?
If you are crystal clear about your values and have them “baked into your molecules,” you’ll be able to eliminate most of the time you spend on things that don’t align with your values, or don’t bring you closer to your goals. It follows, then, that you’ll be able to spend more time on the things that are most important to you.
ABOUT JOSH HOPER
The founder and executive advisor of ABS Fargo, Josh Hoper is a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades. Whether it’s shedding some light on the nitty-gritty financials or providing practical advice to the newest of new business owners, his experience in a wide variety of roles and industries gives him a unique perspective that all types of Fargo INC! readers should find useful.