Reflecting on Your Values During a Time of Crisis

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Topics: Overcoming Challenges, Vision and Culture

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for almost any sports flick. There are many, many movies out there that are based on true stories of teams that have defeated odds, and I lean towards these stories because they remind me to stay the course, fight harder and remember what is important.

2020 certainly has made that hard for all. Teachers may be asking themselves if they still want to teach and parents may be asking themselves why they became parents. Now more than ever, remembering our “why” behind what we do is imperative.

Many years ago, inspired by Elena Aguilar’s book, The Art of Coaching, I sat down to write my values and vision for helping to transform learning communities into more equitable systems that focus on each and every learner.

I wanted to be able to clearly and simply articulate my values and vision because after all, that is exactly what I was asking learning communities to do. If they needed a shared vision, why didn’t I have one? And if I wasn’t reflecting on my own values and vision, how could I ask learning communities to do so? I knew that I stood for transformation,  but it wasn’t until then that I realized how critical it was for me to be able to not only articulate my vision and values, but stand up for them and live by them with intention. That vision and values activity ended up being one of the most important shifts I have made for myself. I reflect about them almost daily and I think about what I did that honors those values, made me practice my values, what fail forwards I have made with my values, and what I might do with the new learnings to move forward.

When COVID-19 hit the planet, I continued to think about my values and my vision with personalized, competency-based learning communities but like many people, I was scared. I was faced with how my values and vision would look in an all virtual arena. The unknown for me was whether or not I would be able to model and practice my values from afar and still feel like I was contributing in impactful ways as part of a team. I was having to face whether or not those values were still important to me. I felt my passion – one of my values – flutter a bit as I navigated the new look and feel of the work. What was I going to do? During reflections, over and over, I wasn’t able to honestly say that I modeled or practiced passion. I fell flat over and over again. Had my values changed? What was wrong?

And then I remembered Brené Brown talking about the famous Roosevelt quote that changed her life:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt

This is a new arena that we are all facing and my values and courage were being tested. Aren’t everyone’s? I ran to get my copy of Brown’s Dare to Lead and flipped to her armored leadership chart:

Armored Leadership Total: _____ Daring Leadership
1. Driving Perfectionism and Fostering Fear of Failure 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Modeling and Encouraging Healthy Striving, Empathy, and Self-Compassion
2. Working from Scarcity and Squandering Opportunities for Joy and Recognition 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Practicing Gratitude and Celebrating Milestones and Victories
3. Numbing 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Setting Boundaries and Finding Real Comfort
4. Propagating the False Dichotomy of Victim or Viking, Crush or Be Crushed 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Practicing Integration – Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart
5. Being a Knower and Being Right 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Being a Learner and Getting It Right
6. Hiding Behind Cynicism 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Modeling Clarity, Kindness, and Hope
7. Using Criticism as Self-Protection 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Making Contributions and Taking Risks
8. Using Power Over 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Using Power With, Power To, and Power Within
9. Hustling for Our Worth 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Knowing Our Value
10. Leading for Compliance and Control 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Cultivating Commitment and Shared Purpose
11. Weaponizing Fear and Uncertainty 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Acknowledging, Naming, and Normalizing Collective Fear and Uncertainty
12. Rewarding Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Attaching Productivity to Self-Worth 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Modeling and Supporting Rest, Play, and Recovery
13. Tolerating Discrimination, Echo Chambers, and a “Fitting In” Culture 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Cultivating a Culture of Belonging, Inclusivity, and Diverse Perspectives
14. Collecting Gold Stars 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Giving Gold Stars
15. Zigzagging and Avoiding 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Straight Talking and Taking Action
16. Leading from Hurt 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Leading from Heart

I read through the assessment and my score was not good enough; it had gone down because I was allowing the pandemic to take me down. I was armoring up instead of daring. I was being the critic.

I went back to my values and noted to myself why they were my values. Incidentally, Brown has a values activity in her books, as well. The guiding questions are:

  • Does this define me?
  • Is this who I am at my best?
  • Is this a filter that I use to make hard decisions?

Whew. My values were still my values. They still mattered to me. I took a few breaths, and wrote down what it feels like to be living my values.

I was going to be alright. You go out there, you fall down and you get back up. Repeat. The idea isn’t to hide behind cynicism, worry about the critics, hide your fears, or be the critic yourself. You live your values the best that you know how, and learn from the experiences. I needed this reminder.

If you haven’t done a values activity before, this just might be the perfect time to try one out, and if you have, how are you feeling lately? It is important that we each set some regular time aside, even if for only a few minutes, to reflect on what really matters so that we are better able to represent our whole selves in the company of others. When grounded in them, our values can coach us when we aren’t sure what to do or say, and during these times, what an absolute gift that can be.

Do you know the “why” in your learning community?