We’re onto the second lesson in this first module ‘Purpose’. In this lesson we’re going to be talking about defining your values, priorities, and mission for your productivity.
Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to or going to have to uncover your big, massive, huge life purpose - although it can be! - but your goal here is to get an understanding about how your values and priorities can help you set up your most productive, day-to-day work and life. Next, you’re going to use your values and priorities to create a mission statement.
At the end of this video I’m going to ask you to take action and use the worksheet that accompanies this lesson. But for now, let’s get going.
The first step is to get clear on what your values are. Values are the feelings, viewpoints, and states of mind that are important to you. Values are the things that light you up and give you joy. Imagine having total freedom to live your life the way you want to, what are the things that you’d still include in your life, how do you want to feel, what do you want to do? You have this inner drive and these inner beliefs that drive you, that are important to you, that make you come alive. Think about that for a minute.
While you do that, let me give you a real life example of what I’m talking about. A couple of years ago I was in a bit of a rough spot. A few things happened at the same time: one of my closest friends moved to a different country, I moved to a different city where I didn't know a single soul, and I was putting in a lot of hours at work without getting results, feedback, or appreciation. Even perfectionism, my trusted companion, didn't get me anywhere anymore. I realised my work left me unfulfilled and unsatisfied. I was tired, stressed, lonely.
During that time there was very little I could muster up the energy for. The one thing I felt like I could do, and started doing, was writing a daily gratitude list. Writing down three things I am grateful for each day has been a turning point in my life. Gratitude has changed my entire outlook on life, I am more positive, take nothing for granted and I'm more appreciative of the beauty around me. I also realised that my perfectionism had never been a trusted companion. In fact, it had held me back from achievement.
Looking back, that was the moment I realised I no longer wanted to be The Perfectionist. I wanted to be The Gratefulist. In my journey to discover how to crack the perfectionism code, I discovered that to let go of my perfectionism I had to rely on a mindset of growth, gratitude, imperfection, worthiness, inner voice, courage, and vulnerability. These 7 principles have become my core values.
As you can see, defining your values doesn’t mean you have to cram all of them into your day, each and every single day. What they are, are guiding principles for your life. They can guide you in making big life decisions about work, relationships, or creativity for example, but they can also guide your decision making with regards to your everyday life.
More so, these values serve as a touchstone for whenever things get rough. When you face a difficult decision or you’re going through a big transition in your life, think about what you value. Your values can give you the strength and wisdom you need to navigate through the rough patches.
Another example: when something unexpected happens in my life and I feel myself drowning in the swamplands of guilt, blame, and victimhood, I know that gratitude is the way out of that sticky swamp. Choosing to focus my energy on staying positive and being appreciative, even if it means acknowledging a few bad things, has helped me tremendously.
So, how to go about defining your values?
This is where you’re going to do a little soul searching. Maybe you already know, deep down in your bones, what your values are. Or perhaps you don’t. These questions will help you:
What feelings, viewpoints, and states of mind are important to you? What lights you up and gives you joy? Also, which areas of your life aren’t important right now?
Think in terms of needs and desires: What do you need or want out of life?
What are non-negotiables in your life? What are things that, no matter what, are your top priorities?
Imagine if you have total freedom to live your life the way you want to, what are the things that you’d still include in your life? How do you want to feel? What do you want to do?
When you think of accomplishment or achievement what comes to mind? What does success mean to you? In which areas of your life do you want to be successful?
Use the worksheet to answer these questions.
Keep this in mind:
There’s no right or wrong way in answering these questions. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ values.
There’s no right amount of values: it could be 2 or 20 things.
Let go of ‘perfect’: there are no perfect answers. It could be that 2 years from now some of your values will change. That’s okay.
I encourage you to be specific. Don’t just write down things like family, business, or authenticity, because those are such broad terms. Be clear on the why behind each value. For example, when one of the values that comes up for you is ‘money’ or ‘career’, think about the why behind those concepts. Could it be that what you really crave is freedom, the freedom that you believe money will give you? Remember, productivity isn’t about the results you get, but about how you feel doing the things you do and value.
For an example on what it means to be specific and clear when defining your values, let’s return to the previous example of my 7 core values. For each of the 7 principles I’ve written down what I mean by them, what I believe, and why they’re important to me.
It could be that answering questions and making a list is not the way for you to go about figuring out your values. Perhaps you’re a visually oriented person and, in that case, doodling, drawing, or creating a mind map could be the way for you to get your creative juices flowing.
Mind-mapping is a technique for you to organize your thoughts, make connections, and spark new ideas. It’s like having a conversation with yourself. Start with a central question, like ‘What are my core values?’ or ‘What feelings, viewpoints, and states of mind are important to me, light me up, and give me joy?’, and see which answers or thoughts or ideas come flowing out of you. Again, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. You can make it as complex or simple, as serious or silly as you want to.
Now, grab your worksheet and finish the exercise about defining your values before moving on to the next part of this lesson.
Now that you have your values figured out, you can begin making choices based on if things will fit within your value system.
Most of the time following and empowering those values will go smoothly. When you’re faced with a decision or with adversity, you’ll look at your values and instinctively know how to move forward. But sometimes you don’t. Sometimes there are two values competing for your attention. That’s where priorities come into the picture.
First, I want to make clear what I mean when I talk about priorities.
In one of my favorite books ‘Essentialism’, Greg McKeown talks about how having multiple priorities is a notion that’s only recently become part of popular culture and that it’s somewhat of a paradox:
"The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things. People and companies routinely try to do just that. One leader told me of this experience in a company that talked of “Pri-1, Pri-2, Pri-3, Pri-4, and Pri-5.” This gave the impression of many things being the priority but actually meant nothing was."
- Greg McKeown, Essentialism
When we talk about priorities in this course I don’t mean it in the way Greg McKeown refers to it in this quote from his book. I also don’t mean it in the way that you might be using it: your day-to-day list of things that are all important, that all need to be done, and that you all try to cram into your day, because they’re all ‘priorities’.
That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about life priorities. Get it? Priorities are NOT your neverending to-do list, but they are overarching principles that are important in your life.
The difference between your values and your priorities, is this:
Your values are a framework. They serve as your guiding principles and boundaries. Your priorities reinforce those boundaries. When in doubt, priorities help you determine whether something falls within or outside of those boundaries. Priorities help you determine if you want to say yes or no to something. In certain situations priorities can help you determine which of your values to prioritize.
I know this sounds confusing, but bare with me here. Whereas your values are larger and more abstract concepts, priorities inform your day-to-day focus, schedule, and decision making.
Let me illustrate what I mean through a fictitious example. Suppose I get an interview request to talk about my story on a podcast. Being vulnerable is one of my values, because I wholeheartedly believe that I’m showing strength when choosing connection, community, and creativity. Then I find out that the interview will take place the day after a big family event, when I know I’ll be tired and overstimulated from all of the impressions and conversations I had the day before. The dilemma here is that an opportunity is presented to me to act upon one of my values, but, at the same time, I feel like it might not be the best time for me to do so.
So, what to do?
I let my priorities be the deciding factor. To me, there are two priorities: rest and play. I know, I know… this is a course about productivity and I don’t prioritize work?! Gasp! But no, I function best when I stick to a schedule of rest and play, rest and play, and so on. To me, play isn't a reward for a job well done. It is a prerequisite. I think my everyday work and life is infinitely better when I think about it terms of play time. And yes, even play time comes with a few chores you dislike - just like when you were young and had to clean up your toys after play time was over - but that’s part of the package. To me, play is anything I do simply for the joy of doing it. And that’s what I want for my life. I want to fill my day doing things simply for the joy of doing them. And to counteract that play time I need a lot of quiet time, time to rest, time to recharge. Over these past months I’ve redefined what work and having a job really means to me and I’ve come to this realization. This is still a work in progress for me, I still have to remind myself of this sometimes, but to me, my one and only job is to take care of myself every day. That is my job, that is my work, nothing more, nothing less.
When I keep these priorities in mind, the answer to the dilemma I talked about earlier becomes obvious. Yes, I value the opportunity to be vulnerable and share my story during a podcast interview, but the timing isn’t right. Because I prioritize rest, the best decision is for me to say no to the interview request.
Now, it’s over to you to find out what your priorities are:
What are the priorities that are important to you in your day-to-day life?
What are the qualities you admire in your friends or the people you look up to? This question might be an important one for you to help you figure out what your priorities are, because the things you see others prioritize in their life (and you admire them for it) are the things you want to make a priority in your own life, too.
When were you most fulfilled and satisfied? Why was that?
Again, work through this in the worksheet.
Keep this in mind:
Try to keep the number of priorities you choose limited. Having a large number of priorities doesn’t help you or make your choices easier. Try to limit it to a top 3 priorities.
Certain principles, like authenticity and connection, can be both a value and a priority. Principles can be a large, overarching life principle (=values), but also something that informs and impacts your daily life (=priority). If you choose a priority that’s also a value for you, that’s fine! It shows how important that principle is for you.
Your values and priorities don’t mean much when you don’t put them into practice. I can give you all the productivity tips and recommend all the wonderful organisational apps in the world, but that would be meaningless unless you do the work. The key to productivity is simple. You have to show up.
There’s no clever strategy that suddenly kicks you into productivity mode at 7 PM, when you’ve had a shit day and all you want to do is drink a bottle of wine and watch Netflix.
So, remember this: you started this course for a reason. You want to be more purposefully productive in your work and life, because you realized you need more balance in your personal life or perhaps because you want to figure out how to make the little hours you have to spend on your side hustle mean something. Whatever your reason, you have mission, a WHY.
Your mission is nothing more than your values (including the reasoning behind your values) and your priorities, written down in a way that’s inspiring. You’ll use sentences like: ‘The things I value the most are…’, ‘... are my biggest priorities’, and ‘I will strive to be a…’.
I know you’re curious, so here’s my mission:
The things I value the most are growth, gratitude, imperfection, worthiness, inner voice, courage, and vulnerability and they guide me in my life. Bringing these values to life through purposeful activity makes me feel connected, joyful, and accomplished. In all that I do, I strive to be a leader, seeker, empowerer, and soul-connected encourager.
Play is my biggest priority. I will dedicate focused time each day to let my creativity flow and to grow and develop myself in my personal, business, and creative life. I will approach my day with a sense of curiosity, wonder, and playfulness, even with activities that are mundane or outside of my comfort zone.
Rest is also a top priority, because it helps preserve my energy and allows me to fully recharge and feel present and connected. Quiet time is something I seek out every day.
Right now, we’re going to define your mission. Let’s whip out the worksheet and do this!
When you’re done, print it out and hang your mission by your desk or workstation or turn it into your desktop wallpaper to remind yourself and keep your priorities straight.
To conclude this lesson: through defining your values, priorities, and mission you’ve also made your purpose clear. When it comes to productivity, your purpose brings clarity and focus. They are your boundaries. These boundaries aren't constraints or limits, they are freeing and empowering.