Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How a List Transformed My Life

I have a personal values statement: a written list of the things that my life is all about. A declaration of the values that I consciously bring to my life every day. For over a year it's been making me exponentially happier and my life better - but I only recently realized it exists at all.

(I love realizing I’ve already done something important that I didn’t know I’d done, don’t you? “Leaves more time for beer,” Ian would say.)

Here's my personal value statement:

  • To live meaningfully.
  • To act according to my intuition and inspiration.
  • To love and be loved.
  • To enjoy life.

This is how it came about:

Last October, Ian and I hired Arts Club Executive Director Howard Jang to assess our companyDreamRider as an organization. As part of that process, Howard facilitated the creation of avalues statement for DreamRider.

Howard gathered stakeholders and friends of DreamRider together and asked them, “Who is DreamRider to you? What values do you see in them that make them DreamRider? Who is DreamRider every time, no matter what, in every situation?”

How to make your own personal values statement:

You can ask yourself the same questions Howard asked us:

  • What are you here to do?
  • What are the goals you want to accomplish in your lifetime, for yourself, your community, your planet?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What are you values?
  • What are you, every time, no matter what, in every situation?

Out of all the answers, we crafted DreamRider’s values statement:

“DreamRider’s values are: fun, welcoming, meaningful, inspiring.”

It’s who we are: Whatever art we are doing, these four things are there.

But why is DreamRider’s art fun, welcoming, meaningful and inspiring? Because all of the art Ian and I do is fun, welcoming, meaningful and inspiring. It’s who we ourselves are, it's an expression of our spirits, and it’s what we ourselves want to experience every day: To live meaningfully, to act according to our intuition and inspiration, to love and be loved, and to enjoy life.

DreamRider’s values are my values. That's how I wrote my values statement without realizing it.

It made a difference to DreamRider when we gathered with friends of the company and wrote down those values together. We knew we were those things, but we didn’t realize how much other people saw those as values that we offer. We wrote down what they told us. And we said, “Yeah, that’s us. We do work that’s fun, meaningful, inspiring and welcoming. That’s our values statement.” You can try it too: ask friends what they think you value.

Writing it down was critical. It made it concrete, in the world, not just an idea in our heads. And then we started expressing those values in everything we did. We started showing people who DreamRider really is. And that’s when the company really took off.

How it changed me

Having a written personal values statement helps me to remember who I really am, why I am worth loving, and what my spirit is here to express in the world.

It helps me choose from among the millions of information bytes that flash by every day. I can surf the stream with my values as my guide.

Now, when faced with any choice, I ask myself, “Is it fun? Is it meaningful? Is it inspiring? Does it help me open my heart to the world?”

I can stop wasting time on stuff that isn’t actually important, and instead, in those moments, find a little piece of meaning by expressing my true spirit. In simple small ways, it’s transforming my life.

Moment-by-moment, I am becoming more like the person I would most like to be.

I am showing my true face.

Mandalas by Erin Dragonsong


  1. Ooh, yeah. How about a breakout session on personal value statements at the next Media that Matters?

  2. Vanessa, I REALLY LOVE your blog, what you say, it's depth and wisdom and not the least its true aesthetic beauty and layout! I can't wait till your next one. Thank you!

  3. Vanessa,
    I agree that thinking about and writing down your values really helps you to get a clearer picture of what you want and what it is you are here to do. Wonderful post. Thanks!