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Viva la Values Revolution!

We desperately need a revolution, and one of our best weapons in that revolution will be happiness.  (I know, I know. Sounds incongruous. Hear me out.)

For at least as long as I’ve been alive (and that’s more than a couple of decades) people and companies have crowed about “VALUES”. Trust, integrity, accountability, honesty, respect, dignity, blah blah, the list of words goes on and on, but the list of ACTIONS suggests that there are very different values actually being upheld:

Profit Margins and Power.

Those are horrible values. Yes, I said it. Horrible. Now, I’m not opposed to companies making a profit. I’m not a hard-line “share all wealth equally” person philosophically (although I’m tired of the myth that there isn’t enough for us ALL to have basic needs met. I’ll save that rant, though). And I am completely on board with people having agency to make decisions and have control in meaningful ways. I am categorically opposed to grinding other people into the dirt to squeeze out a few more micro cents per widget or sacrificing people’s well-being (and lives) in the quest for DOMINANCE, either in the marketplace OR in life. It’s sociopathic, for one, not sustainable, and it’s actually costing a tremendous amount in lost productivity and innovation.

Here’s where happiness comes into play.  I do not believe happiness is the goal in life. Rather, I believe that happiness is the litmus test by which we measure how well the actions we’re taking and the life we’re living aligns with the ideals we hold in our deepest, most fundamental core as sacred. When profit margins and power are the things we (as individuals or as organizations) hold most sacred, people will be discarded in the process. I had a super-heated argument about the atrocity of that paradigm in an undergrad Econ class that almost cost me my grade. So maybe a handful of people will be “happy” if they truly hold power and riches as their highest ideals, but MOST people will not, because that very process Dehumanizes the vast majority of the human race. Greed and the lust for control demand that we be ruthless in destroying everything in our path in that quest – and that leads us to where we are today (and, frankly, where we’ve been for millennia if we’re being honest).

Have some courage, and actually lean into, LIVE into those words!

Cue the revolution! So many of us haven’t spent the time to really do the hard work of figuring out what our actual values are, or of aligning our lives with those concepts. Organizations pay for market research on which values their target market will like, rather than having real conversations about who they want to BE as a company. Or, equally toxic (maybe a little more, with the hypocritical cherry on top there) they believe they want to BE those things, but then consistently trample all over the very values they’ve painted on the boardroom walls in their quest for EPS and market share. Have some courage, and actually lean into, LIVE into those words!  (Sidebar: statistics tell us if your people are happy, your company will perform significantly better, so take this all the way down to the basement and ensure that your PEOPLE have a reason to believe in your VALUES).

So if YOU are unhappy, do some diagnostics. How’s your life stacking up against your values? Do you even know what those are? Are you sure?

If your COMPANY is unhappy, same drill. Are you walking your talk, or are you creating more friction by chasing the wrong things?

And then, when you notice you’re feeling happy, ENJOY that moment, just don’t get complacent. There will always be another pressure test heading your way. Having strong values that you deeply understand will make that experience a lot easier to handle – or at least provide a strong guide through the storm.

Viva la Values Revolution!

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Sarah Ratekin
Sarah Ratekinhttps://www.happinessiscourage.com/
Sarah Ratekin, founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happiness Is Courage Inc., translates the science of happiness and well-being into actionable plans that get radically positive results. An enthusiastic positivity activist, speaker, author, and researcher, she believes we can change the world for the better by being positive, grateful, and kind, and she’s often quoted as saying “Happiness is a gauge, not a goal”. Her current focus is on helping organizations and teams navigate the particularly complex reality of today’s stressors and engagement challenges by nurturing healthier workplace cultures. No stranger to weird working environments, she believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to develop their strengths, find joy in their profession, and engage in the pursuit of happiness in the workplace and beyond. Sarah has a veritable army of garden gnomes keeping watch over her extensive container gardens and is the proud mother of four amazing humans who are making their positive own marks on the world. She and her spouse Kris, both certified Laughter Yoga leaders, also travel extensively bringing the joy and power of laughter and positivity with organizations of all sizes and industries. In their downtime, they enjoy exploring the outdoors (usually by kayak), dancing, and general merry adventuring. Sarah and her family currently reside in Indiana and travel as often as humanly possible.

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2 CONVERSATIONS

  1. There is wisdom here in what you say, Sarah. I think when profitably became the be all and end all of companies and the main driver, it served very few people well. Without hearkening back to the good old days… I do think that for a long time many companies did just fine when they provided an excellent product or service and gave competent follow-up after the sale. If we could go back to that kind of philosophy and then add in what we know to be common sense in the way of pay, benefits and treating employees decently, some semblance of sanity might return to the workplace. I always thought that it wasn’t hard to make a workplace environment good, and decent, and cognizant of basic values. When I finally got to the position and I am now, and got to influence how the environment is here, I found that it is fairly easy – except so many old notions need to be discarded. We don’t need a punch clock mentality, we don’t need more rigidity regarding time off or family obligations and we don’t need a hard and fast template that gives no flexibility for interpretation on a case by case basis. When I repeatedly talk about the cost and inconvenience and pain involved with turnover, then I start to get some heads nodding.

    I have worked in for profit companies that have talked a good game, but were so stuck in outdated philosophies. Their employee morale and turnover reflected it. They talked about their employees being family, about how close knit they were and how they liked to have free food days a couple times a year to make sure everyone felt appreciated. Free food every so often was nice, but they were so rigid in so many other ways… it was actually liberating when I got fired from there. Questions can be so nettlesome, and disrespectful, I was told.

    Of course, I can be this way, in the non-profit world, I might get ambushed and pilloried and ignored if I were in a for profit business. When I see how much CEO’s got as bonuses for companies that have filed for bankruptcy this year I think that there are better ways that those things could have been handled. But this is all just me. Some great thoughts here, Sarah, thanks for sharing them.

    • Oh my goodness, Tom, YES! I don’t understand why organizations can’t wrap their heads around the idea that people work BETTER when they’re not filled with fear and frustration. Thank you for sharing your own experiences – I’m sorry you also had to swim in those crazy waters!!

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