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Walking my dog along the river is a four-times weekly opportunity to (a) moan about the fact it is supposed to be my son’s dog and (b) listen to audiobooks. Today I was re-listening to David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done, the time management classic which is one practical alternative or support to the deeper time management advice provided by Hobbs and Covey in their classics on the subject.

Today I was caught by a comment by Allen about values. He suggests that our focus on values, far from being a route to happiness as described by others, is in fact fraught with danger. It is fraught because that values-focus reminds us that we have so much ‘work’ to do in order to comply with our values – which in turn diffuses that focus and makes us feel as if we are going nowhere. He suggests, I suppose (try concentrating when your dog demands attention), that we should focus on tasks and thus comply with the values, rather than try to focus on the values themselves.

To paraphrase:

  1. Covey/Hobbs: Focus on the values and create tasks and goals that fulfil them.
  2. Allen: Focus on the tasks and hope/intend that they fulfil our values, and therefore us.

In one sense, while both have merit, neither is complete (and I believe neither of the authors would argue differently) because regardless of our values, we live in an interdependent world which won’t allow us to ‘only’ do the things that comply with our values. We have to do tons of things that we don’t w ant to do, don’t like and would avoid if we could. These things are usually known as ‘work’ in the professional sense and ‘family commitments’ in the personal sense. (“Oh, another parents’ evening – joy….”)

Which takes me back to my 26th Feb blog entry, which in a way leans slightly towards the Allen perspective. If you can’t design your life around your values – and few can – then you are compelled to identify ways in which the values you have, serve the tasks that are imposed. That way, if you have a job you don’t want to do, at least in doing it you can comply with your values of Service, Excellence, Duty, etc. This means fulfilment even though, in the first instance, you would not have thought fulfilment possible.

However, you can only know you are doing that IF you know what your values ARE. I have created a new page in which I have re-created that portion of my book which tells you how to do that. Take an hour this week to identify your personal values. It’s incredibly informative.

I very dare you.