Want to signal what’s important to you? Wear your values on your chest!

by | Feb 24, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

“Celebrating since 1770” – the tagline for the College of Charleston’s recent birthday party.

This tagline, which adorned banners, T-shirts and other memorabilia, was a clever way to deal with the College’s delayed birthday. Back in 2020 before the Covid shutdown, the College had planned a big 250th birthday bash. But after a three-year postponement, “Happy 253rd birthday!” didn’t roll off the tongue.

“Celebrating since 1770” signals more than the College’s founding date though. The tagline also reveals a core value that the school and its home city share — partying.

Schools, cities, companies, organizations of all types, and people all have values. Simply stated, values are what an individual or institution judges to be important and beneficial to their well-being. As an individual you have values that motivate you to act and stay in sync with yourself. Values also are the qualities, ideals, objects, or customs desired as a means or an end in themselves.

When you live your values as an individual, your values are guiding your priorities, your decisions, and actions. And when you’re in sync, you feel good, even great. You’re following your North Star. You’re energized and focused. And you feel like you belong; you’re in the right place.

What happens when your values aren’t aligned to how you’re living? You can feel confused, conflicted, angry, anxious, and even depressed.

That’s why it’s so important to identify your personal values and be true to them as much as possible. “Fake it ‘til you make it” doesn’t work with values. You need to honor what you believe in as well as what’s important to you.

As for the College of Charleston and the city, let’s raise a glass and acknowledge their clarity and commitment to the value of celebration. Personally, I place a lower priority on celebration, which makes me a misfit here. (My values are curiosity, courage, and caring. I’m also a naturally serious person, and my favorite ways of having fun reflect my values and my seriousness.) Having comes to terms with my status, I’ve given talks and written about “How to Live Your Best, Nerdiest Life in a Party City.”

Partying has a long tradition in Charleston, which was founded in 1670. By the time it was celebrating its centennial, the college was just starting. Now compare that with the origin story of Boston and Harvard. Boston and New Town (the original name of Cambridge) became towns in 1630. Harvard, the first college in the American colonies, was founded three years later in 1636.

Charleston is also known for many other attributes. It’s a beautiful city, surrounded by water and marshes with world-class culture, beautifully preserved historic architecture, scrumptious food, and a vibrant economy.

In recent years, the city also has been reckoning with its role in the slave trade. In 2018, the Charleston City Council passed a resolution apologizing for the city’s role in slavery. The College has followed by bringing attention to the enslaved laborers who built the school’s original buildings, ensuring the school’s stature as the first municipal college in the United States.

As someone who values education, I appreciate being connected with the College of Charleston’s accelerated MBA program as one of the executive coaches. Our coaching role includes helping  the students identify their values as well as their ideal self.

The students enjoy the values exercise, as do the corporate leaders I also coach. As to whether they wear their values on their T-shirts, that’s up to them. My preference is to live my values, not showcase them on my chest.

Yet being explicit with others about your values as well as role modeling them is a great and healthy way to live. What do you think?





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