When I did my first values elicitation process 5-6 years ago I had not yet stumbled upon the term “soul’s values”.
That first elicitation experience was helpful, but the value words that I ended up with on my piece of paper weren’t alive somehow. They felt like one of those paper dolls in children’s playbooks that you, with the help of a pair of scissors, cut out from a sheet of paper. Dolls that looked the part from one angle, but are flat and one-dimensional.
Over the years I have discovered that values consist of different layers. And when we include all of the layers in the values elicitation process, they bring about a much deeper awareness and a more complete experience.
Some of you have heard me talk about “soul’s values” as the type of values work that I help people with. I’ve been asked many times to describe the meaning of soul’s values, and how they are different from other types of values.
Below is my attempt to describe how I see values generally, the meaning and role of hygiene factors that are connected to values, and my definition of soul’s values and why they are important.
A value is defined as a principle or standard of behaviour. It’s our judgment of what is important in life, our preference.
Conversations about values tend to focus on distinguishing between “us” and “them” or what is considered “good” or “bad”. And collectively we talk about moral, ethical, and cultural values.
Trying to summarise the difference between moral, ethical, and cultural values I’ve arrived at the following: A moral value reflects our intention and connects with feeling “good” or “bad”; an ethical value determines what behaviour is considered “right” or “wrong”, and a cultural value is what shapes and influences people in a society.
To me, they all have an external focus and in my experience, they don’t make visible the essence that lies beneath our choice of value words.
Summarising our values usually leave us with a list of words that have special meaning to us. A list is a great start but it keeps us in our heads and makes it another intellectual exercise. Very seldom do we link the words on our list back to the essence and our day-to-day, i.e. how we actually live those values.
The essence, in my opinion, is where we find the life force of our values – or said another way – who we need to be, to be in alignment. If a value, as the title suggests, is the engine for our choices, then the essence is the fuel.
So, how do we uncover the essence, where do we find it?
I’ll describe how to uncover the essence in greater detail below, but to give an example:
If Freedom is one of my values, what do I understand Freedom to mean to me? What does it represent? To break it down further, what choices do I then make in my day-to-day to be aligned with that understanding? Who do I need to be to ensure that I am moving towards my desired outcome of freedom? What is my daily practice that will help me achieve this?
Without this deeper knowledge or essence, my values don’t mean much. They fall short in providing the guidance, clarity, and empowerment that I need to live and lead in a way that is aligned with what motivates me the most.
In Sara’s values work for purpose-led entrepreneurs, she refers to “guiding principles” (values) and “hygiene factors”. Sara describes this better than I ever could, but a hygiene factor is what we may think of as a value, but, depending on the industry we’re in (or our mission and vision), it is something that ought to be part of how we run our business anyway.
Meaning, it ought to be part of the process or experience already.
In my business, examples of hygiene factors are Connection and Intuition as both are central to the experience and how I work. This in comparison to my guiding principles (values), which are Freedom, Empowerment, Evolution, and Leadership. Whatever I do, or whatever services I offer, they always speak to or reflect a greater sense of one or more of the four: Freedom, Empowerment, Evolution, and Leadership.
Although hygiene factors may be more useful in relation to business, they are still a helpful parameter in understanding the width and depth of our personal values.
Important to remember: the words that we each choose to represent our values are subjective, and so what might be a value to some may be a hygiene factor to someone else.
Above, I mention how values generally are used to distinguish between us and them, what is considered good or bad, right or wrong. All of these have an external focus.
The inspiration for your soul’s values stems from an inward-looking focus, rather than an outward-looking focus.
A couple of years after my first values elicitation experience, I was inspired to create a 3-layered process for identifying my soul’s values.
I named the three layers: Principle, Process, and Practice. Translated, the layers reflect different touchpoints:
The principle is the same as your value, or as I prefer to call it, your desired outcome. This is where you want to end up. This layer is linked to your mind and is the intellectual touchpoint.
The process is referring to your experience, also known as a “recogniser”. The recogniser is the layer that helps you know if what you see around you, or what you experience within you, is aligned with your desired outcome (or not, as the case may be). This layer connects your heart and is the emotional touchpoint.
The practice is referring to your daily habits, how you live ‘it’. This layer involves your gut and is your spiritual touchpoint. Identifying “how you live it”, will point you to how you actually live your values. It’s like switching from a single flashlight to using floodlights to light up a dark room. It makes the exploration come full circle, and in unison, the three layers or touchpoints provide a sense of wholeness, freedom, expansion, and deeper connection.
I quickly recognised the power of my soul’s values and decided to put them first. As a result, my life changed exponentially. They helped me to operate in a new way, with greater confidence, courage, and clarity. Life has become simple.
Why are soul’s values important?
Your soul’s values show others how you choose to lead your business and your life:
- They are your compass, they offer an opportunity to access your true north, to get deep and empowered clarity.
- They help you with decision-making, keeping your focus, fulfilling your purpose, and navigating life easier.
- They help you replace complexity with simplicity, increase your awareness, and empower you to live with greater integrity.
Your soul’s values offer inspiration. And, in my experience, values that inspire nudge us to take action; to change, grow, and evolve.
People who feel drawn to my work want to listen more to their soul. They want to bring their soul into their business. They want to become and be soulful leaders. A lot of my focus is on helping them identify their soul’s values and, for the visionaries, helping them unlock and uncover a deeper understanding of and connection to the work they feel called to do.
If my approach to values, and more specifically soul’s values, has stirred or awakened something in you, leave a comment or send me a message. I’d love to hear your thoughts.