Alignment and making things easy
Five years ago I realised with a shuddering lurch in my gut that I was running Snapdragon in a way that did not align at all with my values. I wanted to live life in a simple, easefilled way, in a way that was light on the planet, in a way where everyone was welcome. I wanted time and freedom to create and travel, I wanted time to contribute to the community, I wanted to be able to talk honestly about the things I care about.
Yet somehow, over fifteen years or so I had let that slide - I made assumptions about the way to run a 'proper business', there were lots of things I did to fit in or pay staff, many topics that I did not talk about because I worried that they would upset gatekeepers.
I had expanded the business, taking on more staff, making more and more of the best selling products, taking part in promotions based on scarcity. I didn't do anything illegal or dishonest or even particularly bad - but I certainly didn't always act in full alignment with my own values. And that caught up with me in my gut.
I've talked a lot about this on various business podcasts because I suspect it is something that effects a lot of business owners, as the general business advice is all about growth. But now I believe that even people who don't have a business are also effected by this, they make tiny compromises bit by bit - often for really good reasons - and then they wake up one morning and realise that they have drifted away from their core values. Life isn't quite as it should be. It is overwhelming and somehow 'off'.
The first thing that I did back in 2016 whenI was casting about for change was to reread Danielle LaPorte's book The Desire Map - which takes you through a method of digging down into exactly how you want to feel and then takes you through methods for incorporating those feelings into daily life. It is a kind of 'what is missing' exercise, to identify what you are craving - maybe freedom or power or abundance - and then using small practical acts to bring more of it into your life. (Despite Danielle's increasing "woo-ness" in recent years this book is really very practical and rooted in verifiable psychology so don't be put off)
At the same time I did a much quicker brand values exercise for Snapdragon. I took a sheet of paper and wrote down about 60 positive ways of being seen - things like generous, powerful, compassionate, reliable - laid out randomly in a grid. I sat quietly and circled all that I felt were my core traits. Some were very similar - grounded, rooted, down to earth for example - but I felt it important they were all there as they are slightly different in their meaning to me.
Then - and this is the difficult bit - I highlighted just three. Mine were generous, thoughtful and brave. Those are the core values of Snapdragon Life, the things I need to consider everyday if I want to live an aligned life. I could have picked a couple of dozen words - it felt really difficult not having creative or innovative, honest, open, welcoming . . . . . .but, if I had just listed basically what I felt were my strengths, it wouldn't have worked.
Three little words. And what has happened since then feels quite magical. Over the past five years I have kept coming back to them.
- Generous - if it is a core value of my life and work, then I need to have the time and space for generosity. Therefore I need to create intentional gaps to make that giving, whether that is time, cash or opportunity, properly sustainable.
- Thoughtful - In the past I would probably have been drawn to louder words - radical, innovator, disrupter - all of which have their place, but thoughtful won through in its slowness, quietness, depth. It has served me well in being able to stand back and consider new ways of doing things, rather than rushing in as I would normally have done. It also stops the knee jerk reaction . . .
- Brave - The past five years brought a lot of difficult times; deliberately shrinking a business is a lot less fun than growing it. I had to do a lot of things that were really hard and scary. I had to do them against a lot of people shaking their heads and telling me I was foolish. Having brave as a core value made me brave. It helps me do things that I know are right but that are not conventional. It also allows me to trust myself and others.
If you fancy having a go at this exercise yourself I have put together a printable PDF of words with instructions . . .
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