Living your values

Have you heard about the Spanish athlete who gave up his chance to win a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre?   He was running second as the athletes entered the finishing straight,  when he saw the Kenyan runner  Abel Mutai (3,000 meter gold medallist at the London Olympics) mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line. Not being a Spanish speaker, he didn’t understand the shouts from spectators to keep going.

ivan_fernandez_anayaRather than speeding past him, the 24-year-old quickly caught up with him, stayed behind him and gestured towards the finishing line, allowing the Kenyan to cross the line first.
Anaya is reported to have said ‘today, with the way things are in all circles, in soccer, in society, in politics, where it seems anything goes, a gesture of honesty goes down well’

Friday 24th January 2013 sees the launch of the UK Values Alliance. The stated vision of the Alliance is to build a values-driven UK society where all people are consciously aware of and live their values

Their starting point is the Barrett Values Centre’s  2012 survey of the national and community values of the people of the UK, whose results will be revealed at the launch.  The detailed statistics are embargoed until then, but they reveal an interesting capacity to discount our own experience in favour of what we believe about society as conveyed through the media.  If everyone consciously lived their values, and was able to interact with others doing the same, would that change our perceptions of society?

Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister from 1979-1990 famously said ‘there is no such thing as society’.  Whether or not we agree with the comment in the context in which it was made,  I wonder whether a resolution to talk about and take responsibility for our own experience, rather than ‘what happens in society’ would result in a different picture.   It’s human nature to seek evidence which confirms our beliefs.  It’s not difficult to find examples of people behaving dishonestly, showing disrespect, putting themselves first or behaving in other ways which might challenge our principles.  It’s a short step from there to believing that ‘everybody does it’ and giving ourselves permission to do the same.  When we behave contrary to our values, we lack authenticity and it’s harder for people to trust us – or indeed for us to trust ourselves.

Values-led education is a growing movement. Every school leader knows the importance of articulating educational values, yet schools rarely assess systematically the extent to which their own values are experienced by – and resonate with – all members of their community.  When our work allows us to live our values, the work becomes easier.  Our efforts go with the grain of the corporate wood, rather than across or against it.  We are able to take our whole selves to work, knowing that what is important to us is valued by our organisation.  Being conscious of and using this knowledge allows organisations to tap in to what Richard Barrett, founder of the Values Centre, calls ‘the new social capital’.

Imagine what might be achieved if everyone in the UK contributed to realising ‘the new social capital’; if you and those closest to you openly talkes about any mismatch between behaviour and values; if you knew that you and your boss had agreed on what’s most important to you and your organisation and always behaved accordingly.

You can help by being values-conscious and values-driven.  If you’d like to know more about yourself and explore what’s important to you, and you can carry out the free personal values assessment on the Values Centre website.

To learn more about the UK Values Alliance, visit