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Reflecting on Your Values During a Time of Crisis

June 8, 2023

By: Laura Hilger

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.

They were:

I wanted to be able to clearly and simply articulate my values and vision because after all, that is exactly what I am often 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 I did this activity 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.

I reflect on my vision and values almost daily and I think about what I did each day 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.

It isn’t always easy. Being an educator means that sometimes I will struggle. It will be hard. There have been times where I have reflected and have had to admit that I wasn’t able to model or practice my values, when I fell flat. That’s when I remember 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

When my values and courage are being tested, I get my copy of Brown’s Dare to Lead and flip 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

When I’m feeling down, sometimes I find that I am armoring up instead of daring. I was being the critic.

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. Even when I’m being challenged, my values are still my values. They still matter to me.  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. When grounded in them, our values can coach us when we aren’t sure what to do or say, and during challenging times, what an absolute gift that can be.

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Laura Hilger
Senior Director of Teaching and Learning

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