What do you stand for? Values or Beliefs?

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News events, especially in the last few weeks, offer a whole volume of insights for decision-makers and change-agents world-wide. President Trump’s response to racially charged events instigated an exodus of executives from his advisory councils. Remaining advisory councils imploded and dismantled. Division amplified and people expressed hurt by words missing moral integrity. Thankfully, by observing the deeper dynamics, everyone has the chance to gain insight. The resignation of executives illustrated a shift from belief to value-based decision-making. And that’s an important step in leadership!

Moving from Beliefs to Values

Beliefs form to make sense out of experiences, and then filter how you perceive what is possible, or not. Your beliefs may or may not be true. Some believe the world is flat despite evidence to the contrary. Others know the Earth to be round, having seen pictures from space or by circumnavigating it. Trying to convince the ‘flat earth’ person that facts show the earth to be round, is pointless. The facts fly in the face of the world-view and so illicit a defence response. Many companies believe that if profit is not their purpose, then they will not survive. It’s a strongly held belief that impedes growth and agility. And it is one illustration of how beliefs get easily confused with values.

In the majority of companies, beliefs lie at the root of decisions, consciously or unconsciously.


  1. Our company exists purely to make a profit. Decision - Cut costs, including staff.
  2. Women do not offer as much value as men do. (Bias-based) - Decision - Pay men more than women for the same work.
  3. Self-managed companies don’t work because you lose control. Decision - Do nothing. It wouldn’t work here anyway.


  1. Systemic health: Our company exists to restore health at every level. Decision - Find ways to save costs. Find ways to restore social and ecological health through how we produce and distribute our products.
  2. Equality and Respect. Decision - Pay women the same as men for the same work.
  3. Engaging People. Decision - Self-management is the means to engaging talent at every level, including the leaders. We will custom implement a self-management approach.

Assumptions are used, with and without awareness, and can turn into rigid beliefs sabotaging creative and responsive agility. Made intentionally, assumptions can provide an interim means to gain certainty in a changing landscape. Chapter 9 in Decision Making for Dummies explains how to intentionally apply assumptions.

Beliefs form to make sense of the past, so basing your decisions on beliefs recycles the past. When future-focused, beliefs serve to inspire – a different purpose. Henry Ford was known to say: “Whether you think you can, or you can’t - you are right.” In one quote, he sums up the distinction. Values-based decisions designs the future because values are not limited by personal or organizational experience.

How does that apply to the news? The events of August, 2017, reveal the difference. Values transcend beliefs in that they hold a universal quality. You know what you stand for, and what you will not stand for. It is likely that the executives believed they could make a difference by being on the advisory council. When their values were compromised, they stepped down.

Training Your Mind to Contribute and Respond

Everything has a purpose. How you perceive a word, or your world, determines how you show up, how present you are, and how you communicate. Originally, I wore the label of professional facilitator, brought in to handle high-level conflict. Tossed into the task of reversing destructive dynamics helped me realize I was facilitating creative energy that had spiralled down into negativity. Each person was aiming to achieve a shared (or not) goal. Making a subtle shift in my perception changed how I worked with the worst of human behaviour to provide the environment for the best to show up.

My perception shift changed my decisions and my approach. Rather than judging the dysfunction as ‘bad behaving humans’, it was easier to hold compassion and emotional detachment. In most cases, creative energy had fallen down into a ‘difference of opinion’ pit. Redirecting the energy, strengthened resilience by restoring vitality to team spirit. This worked for me personally as well, as anyone who has engaged in negative self-talk or toxic environments can appreciate. By observing when my emotional strength was depleting, I averted the slippery slope into a depressed state. Energy flows where attention goes, so redirecting attention toward rejuvenating emotions boosts health. Simple in a way.

“We can control our lives by controlling our perceptions.” – Dr. Bruce Lipton

Training your mind requires recognizing what you are focused on, your self-perception and stance in relation to outer conversation. Two lenses provide insight: one from psychology, and the other from game science.

Insight from Psychology: Carol Dweck, in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, talks about a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort…In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

What mindset do you identify with? Your answer is subject to change with each interaction or challenge. Witness nuances in how you perceive language and situations. For instance, some equate therapy with personal growth. Therapy applies to solving a psychological problem. It relies on analytical thinking to find the root cause somewhere in your history. The quest is to find the problem. Self-awareness becomes one possible result.

Looking holistically, personal growth is the means to expand your effectiveness in the world. Self-awareness is the meta-skill - the compass for self-discovery. The differences are not semantic because meaning is connected to the purpose served. Polish film maker Mariusz Bocian explains how he applies feeling uncomfortable to his growth in a podcast interview. Applied, rapid-fire responses triggered by mindset and emotions reveal your mindset: fixed or growth. With that awareness, you can choose your focus. Anxiety is a useful indicator to move from a state of status quo, to purpose-driven action.

Big questions face humanity today so a learning, growth mode is essential for health otherwise it is easy to feel victimized by patterns that repeat in your life or events outside of direct control. In education and in business, growth orientation spurs faster learning and higher resilience.

Insight from Game Science: Game science adds a layer of depth to Dweck’s psychological research. Jane McGonigal, in Superbetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient describes a threat and a challenge mindset.

  • Do you see challenge as something you can rise up and meet?
  • Or is it a threat that could overwhelm or harm you?

‘Cognitive appraisal’, according to Jane, determines how you respond. A good way to test yourself, apart from the quiz in Superbetter, is to test your response to AI, robotics, or violent events in the news. The choice you make is central to how humanity handles hate, or violence emotionally and collectively.

Can you rise above the challenge, tapping into deeper creative responses, or do you feel it is outside your control? The challenge mindset recognizes risk, but your focus is directed on growth; on achieving a positive outcome over a negative one.

Engaging with Stressful Circumstances as the Training Ground

How you engage with stressful circumstances is the training ground for developing a challenge mindset. Everyday news provides a place to practice. So does the chance to redesign how to be in greater alignment with your values, your personal intent and creative contribution to the world. It is easy to think that an app will save humanity. By tapping into what we, as a species, are truly capable of, we can change the trajectory of human evolution. It is not an armchair sport. It may be the moment where feeling like you are losing your mind is the opening to upgrade how you perceive and receive events in your life and the world.

What do you stand for? How do you choose to respond to events in the world today? What do you think is possible?

Dawna works with early adopters, early majority decision-makers to create quantum jumps in growth-oriented transformation. A speaker and workshop leader, she is the author of Decision Making for Dummies and has contributed a chapter on the new purpose of business to ‘The Intelligence of the Cosmos” by systems theorist Ervin Laszlo. She’s adept in the subtle skills of working with energy as a powerful force for well-being. She hosts the Insight to Action podcast for business innovators. Dawna is also working on a VR startup for applying the power of the human spirit to restoring resilience. Contact her through www.FromInsightToAction.com and LinkedIn.

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