Values. We all have them, and we all live by them. Some people do it intentionally, and others haphazardly. This month I am going to touch on the topics of branding and creating a mission statement. But before we can cover those, we really have to get at the heart of the matter. That is our values.

Our values are important beliefs and ideals that we hold which direct our thoughts, words, and actions. Values reflect those things that we most want and care about in life. Defining our values can help us by acting as decision-making guides that let us know which things we should do and what things to avoid. Having clearly stated values helps you when you are faced with tough decisions that can impact our patients, our career, or our family. Before we can write a mission statement, create a branding outline, develop a strategic plan, or outline a marketing agenda, we have to know our values.

The first step in defining your values is creating some space and time to think. Physicians are notoriously busy, but there are times when we can and should carve out moments for our own growth. This is one of them.

Then think about those things that elicit the greatest sense of joy or sadness. There is usually a common theme among those instances. That underlying theme may be a value that you hold very highly. For example, if there is something that triggers your sense of injustice, it is likely because that is important to you. Also, ask what give you a sense of purpose or meaning to what you do. This list of values is where you can start narrowing down those that resonate most deeply.

These values may change slightly with time, but for the most part we tend to hold onto them firmly. That is why they are such a good place to start whenever we start to think about things like a mission statement, strategic planning, or branding. Putting the time into discovering your values makes all the remaining steps much simpler. Without a clear understanding of our values, it is much more challenging to create a meaningful mission statement, for example.

One last tip – you may think you know what you value, but I would suggest going through the exercise anyway. Sometimes, when we are not intentional about the process of discovering out values, we can just assume those that “sound good” or are pressed upon us by family, friends, or work environments. When that happens, we find incongruities developing between what we say and what we do, which creates stress. We already know doctors have more than enough stress. Maybe that is why calm, peacefulness is something I value.