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Value Deficits & Bridging the Gap

Occasionally, for work or other projects, I’ve been asked to look at a list of values and note my top 5 or 10. Things like: gratitude, curiosity, authenticity, and adventure typically jump to mind. While the work-related values review usually goes into something about how we can collaborate better as a team, I also like to think about how I can apply it to my personal life.

If one of my personal values is adventure, how can I incorporate that into my life to feel fulfilled and joyful? This could absolutely look like skydiving and spontaneous road trips and last minute flights. It could also look like a new dinner order at a new-to-me restaurant in my own neighborhood. Adventure, as we’ve spoken of before, can be found everywhere.

I love little check-ins like this. I think it’s good for my brain to take deliberate pauses and evaluate how I’m spending my time. Am I aligning myself to my values? I say I value curiosity, but am I giving myself space to look at the world with wonder? To learn new things? And, if not, what do I need to adjust to give priority to this value? It was in one of these recent moments of introspection that I thought of another way to look at this.

If someone were to ask me some of my top hobbies, interests, goals, or aspirations, I would likely talk about how I value my personal health and am an avid long distance runner. I would speak about my love of reading and writing and learning languages. I would also share my nonprofit and volunteer history and would mention the dream of publishing books and doing public speaking more frequently.

Then, I would think about how I spend my time. Certainly, I would feel confident in talking about the simple things I do for my health and my favorite running trails. I’d share my book list from the past few years and my language learning streak on the Duolingo app. I would feel pretty prepared and proud of the way I’ve designed my life. In fact, I am proud of the way I manage many of my priorities and goals and values.

And then someone might ask me about a book. About publishing something. About public speaking. About The Smile Project. I have always been grateful for people who ask me about The Smile Project.

There’s something funny about having worked on a thing since you were a teenager. It is deeply embedded into every part of me. I am who I am because of The Smile Project. I love it more than I can ever say. And I am so grateful for all it has given me. And yet, I sometimes recognize my own disconnect with it. Am I just going through the motions?

It’s one thing to say you want to publish a book. It’s another thing to take the first step.

Dear reader, I imagine you have many “books you’d like to publish.” Metaphorically speaking, there are some lofty goals you’d like to achieve that feel like they might take a whole lot of time and a whole lot of effort.

It’s one thing to say you value something. It’s another thing to live that value.

I value adventure. But I also value stability. I don’t need jetset off to Paris on a whim to feel like I’m living my value of adventure. Adventure can be as simple as taking a different path on my morning walk.

I want to do so much more with The Smile Project and my other personal and professional goals of writing and public speaking. But I also sometimes feel frozen by the sheer number of opportunities. So where do I begin?

I begin by talking about it. I begin by surrounding myself with people who care about me and this work and who love being a sounding board. Surround myself with people who are passionate and dedicated and supportive. I begin by setting up my environment to make space for these initiatives. I organize my computer and my desk space. I give myself the tools necessary to be successful. I prioritize patience. I know that some things aren’t a simple checked box on a to-do list. Some things take time. I break big endeavors into manageable tasks.

And I write about it. I lean on my community to hold me accountable. To check-in. To believe in me on days I don’t believe in myself.

Here’s the kicker. This works for tangible goals. But it also works for those value lists. There can often be a physical unease when you don’t feel like you’re living into your values. In those times of discomfort, it’s really crucial to be surrounded by people who remind you who you are… who help you to bridge the gap between what you say you value and the actions that show what you do.

This week, we invite you to do a value audit for no one but yourself. Think about what truly matters to you. Write it down. Think about how you are living into these values.

Find the divide. Bridge the gap.


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