How WRITING Out Your Values Can Help You Quit Smoking Or Build A Powerful Business?

Coaching business owners has allowed us some pretty exciting highs.  Coaching also requires the thickening of a coach’s skin. There are plenty of days where I show up to “practice” ready to coach and the response is a subtle eye roll from an owner, “Really?  We’re going to talk about this again?”

Most Tuesday nights throughout the school year we have a group of teenage emerging-men to our house for “Man Up Night”.  It’s really a case study in teenage male interaction. Shiny squirrels, bazaar sounds, curious thoughts, unrealistic competition, and the world’s newest game, plunger wars (don’t ask).

One of these young emerging men walked into the house on a Tuesday and I asked him, “how was practice?”  His response, “just like always…it sucked.”

The truth of that statement is that it is hard.  What gets missed in our bemoaning practice is when that young emerging-man shows up this Friday night to his live game, he will be overwhelmingly grateful and satisfied that he put in the hard work of repetitious, enduring, methodical practice.

As your coach, at least for this moment, I am inviting you into the methodical, repetitous, sometimes painful work of writing.  

Writing down your vision.  Writing down your mission. Writing down your unique core values.

Why write them and not just discuss them?  

Michael Gerber said, “if you don’t write it down you don’t own it.”

I am not sure who said this statement but it is true nonetheless, “if you do not write it down it does not exist.”

My first book Let Your Business Burn: Stop Putting Out Fires, Discover Purpose, And Build A Business That Matters only exists because I took the time to write it down.  Obvious huh? Think through the inverse. If I do not write it down, the book does not exist.  

We have written down tutorials, modules, documents, and templates, and now they all exist and bring enduring value for others.  Just this year over 1,000 people have my book, my thoughts, my perspective in their hand. Just this year our tutorials and templates have been used thousands of times.  

How?  I wrote it down.

Author, psychologist, and educator Kelly McGonigal reinforces the intentional act of writing, in this case, your values.  McGonigal writes, “It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience.

In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a one-time mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.”

Why do we resist?

First, writing feels so “9th-grade-English”.  We wrote in 9th grade because we were forced to write.  Many of us found no joy or purpose in the writing other than simply to write.  There was no “Friday night game” that rewarded the joy of writing, to the detriment of this great skill.

I walked into my son’s room as he was pounding away at a keyboard the other night working on a short essay.  As I write and speak this out now I am thinking, “we need to have a Friday night game experience for his collection of writings.”  The old adage is true, “what gets rewarded gets done.”

Second, we resist writing because writing feels so beneath us.  We are smart people, we don’t need to write it down!  We think, “I’m a grown adult, I’ll leave the writing to the 9th graders.”  I get it, but we are wrong when we think this. Writing, documenting, capturing, recording is one of the most thoughtful, human, empowering tools you have in your toolbelt.  

When you write and capture a process, a value, a vision, a mission, an idea, that written statement transforms into a powerful motivator and invitation that forces the rest of us to either run towards what you have written (in agreement), or run away from what you have written (in disagreement).

If you want me to know where you stand, write it down, otherwise it is just hot air.  

You need to hire someone?  Write the role down.

You need to bring on a partner?  Write it down.

You need to have a tough conversation?  First, write it down.

You need to praise someone?  Write it down.

Finally, we resist writing because it is hard.  To spend time writing this right now means that I have elected to not sleep, text, email, or eat ice cream (although I’m still in debate).  Writing this means that I have chosen to forego the easy work of responding to fires and instead invest in the hard work of writing it down, so now it exists allowing you to think through how you bring things into existence.

Write your vision, write your mission, write your values, write your systems, write your process, write thank you notes, write your thoughts and then repeat them over and over and over and over so we can read them and RUN!

Put in the hard work of writing and watch the reality of what Kelly McGonigal wrote play out in real time, it will “show benefits months or even years later.”  How? Just start writing.

Oh yeah, I failed my 9th grade English class, so no excuses.

Scott Beebe is the founder of Business On Purpose, author of Let Your Business Burn: Stop Putting Out Fires, Discover Purpose, And Build A Business That Matters.  Scott also hosts The Business On Purpose Podcast and can be found at mybusinessonpurpose.com.