This is a really daunting question, and most people are lost at sea with it before coming to me.
The way to tackle this is to examine the question behind the question. First of all, in becoming part of the GSB alumni, you would be an ambassador of sorts, whether you are aiming to or not. You would represent GSB, an affiliation that will last longer than many marriages. Because of that, they want to really understand your operating system – your values.
And so, this question actually asks, what do you most value?
The answer is meaningless without an anecdote, really – as with all the essays, show, don’t tell – and it should illustrate the value to which you lay claim. As a coach, I try to help my clients discern their values so they can make better decisions.
To use myself as an example, my values include self-expression, playfulness, and independence. Before I got into this business, I moved from newspaper marketing to Wells Fargo. The change appeared to be an upgrade from the outside, but I found myself stripped of all that I valued. No longer was I able to champion my own initiatives or banter with graphic designers, copywriters, and reporters. None of my writing I did came from a place of self-expression like it used to. Rather, everything at Wells Fargo was lockstep, recycled from the marketing calendar, under heavy scrutiny of compliance standards, and totally devoid of all humor and spontaneity.
Had I understood my values, I would have been able to articulate why my inner guidance was saying NO GIRL, DON’T GO THERE. Values guide decisions. For me to be happy in my work, self-expression, independence and playfulness needed to be there.
When it comes to What Matters Most, consider personal and professional anecdotes and see what the golden thread is, the “through line” that ties things together.
The exercise I have people do is to identify one personal and one professional anecdote for each of the following: 1) when did you feel most proud?, 2) when did you feel most accomplished?, and 3) when did you feel most fulfilled? Then we consider each anecdote and from there back out what it says about the values of that person.
For instance, one of my clients felt most fulfilled when several people slammed his phone with messages encouraging him to apply for a new job opening in their department. Having been the recipient of racist bullying as a child, he valued a sense of belonging to community as well as feeling wanted and welcome. In his essays, he shared the story of bullying and anecdotes around his efforts to shape that community around him, making the connection from his personal to his professional life.
By identifying where your values come from, you can understand why they are important to you and once equipped with this knowledge, you can provide a holistic answer to “What matters most and why?”
What Matters Most and Why
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