Have you ever considered why some people exert a tractor-beam like quality on you? In my experience we’re attracted to people based on some strange alchemy of their personality, appearance, and values. This is certainly true of my wife of nearly twenty years. But rather than talking about our enneagram numbers or Myers-Briggs types, or our self-care regimens, I want to look at that third component of attraction, values.

When Values Attract

Despite much marital bliss, this spring we found ourselves running into some repetitive conflict around our schedules and commitments. After receiving some wise counsel to look into our values, I decided to revisit a powerful exercise from the first chapter of LEAD 24/7.

I broke out my Values Exercise worksheet, made a couple clean copies, and then Becky and I proceeded to highlight any values (from a list of nearly 100) that stood out to us and to circle the six that we felt were most important. This sounds much easier than it is. Even though this was my second time through the exercise I found that prioritizing my top six values was a challenge. I was reminded again of the hard work that leaders must do to understand and lead themselves.

We compared worksheet notes and discovered (to our relief!) that there was a lot of overlap in our values. We highlighted many of the same words as being important to us, and I’m convinced that the broad alignment of our values has helped to make our relationship work over the last two decades. It’s a big part of what attracted us to one another, and it’s a big part of what has kept us happily married.

When Values Conflict

We also discovered that of the six “most important” values we independently circled, just one was the same. Wow. That was quite an insight. I think this was something that we both intuited. We were feeling just a little “off.” Having shared language around our values and our ranking of those values for the first time was incredibly helpful.

What became clear was that in this particular season of life, circumstances were aligning to bring to the surface several places where we don’t naturally prioritize our values in the same way. For example, commitment, responsibility, freedom, and flexibility are values we hold in common. (They are also wildly divergent under pressure!) We discovered through this exercise that we simply rank these shared values differently.

When pressed or stressed, I’ll double down on commitment. She’ll double down on freedom. That insight alone has helped us live with more understanding and appreciation of each other. One of us doesn’t have to be right and the other wrong in the values department. We can accept that we’re different and that’s part of what makes us work.

Applying Insights from the Values Exercise

To take the exercise a step further, we realized that we each have internal work to do related to our values. My own work will be to stop overcommitting myself and us, and to maintain freedom in my schedule and posture toward life. We need margin to thrive together and allow for the freedom and spontaneity that are so important to her. Her work will be to reserve her “yes” for those things which she’s deeply passionate about, and then to follow through on those commitments–which are very often our shared commitments.

There’s a lot of energy to be gained in developing a common language around your values, whether that’s in the context of a team you lead, a marriage, family, or other relationship.

Trying the Values Exercise for Yourself

I’d encourage you to download the LEAD 24/7 Values Exercise worksheet, print out a few copies and try this exercise with those closest to you. After selecting and ranking your values, you may want to:

  • Talk about what the overlap and the divergence in values might mean for your work environment and the living systems in which you exist.
  • Explore how you can accommodate the differences in how you inevitably rank your values.
  • Consider if there are seasons of life when you rank values differently.
  • Discuss how your individual values may relate to any common values you’ve articulated for your business, family, or marriage.

These exercises and conversations will give you a deeper appreciation of how shared and divergent values lead to both flow and friction in your relationships. It will remind you of the values that got you connected in the first place and provide some insights into where you may need to accommodate (or celebrate!) your differences.

Let us know if you try this exercise as a team or in the context of your family. We’d love to hear how it went and what insights you gained.