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Why We Must Listen to Our Values at Decision Time

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Why We Must Listen to Our Values at Decision Time

For some reason, a critical encounter between the central fictional characters in the movie adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings has been rattling around in my brain lately. It goes as follows:

Frodo: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but it is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

While at first blush it may seem flippant to use this fictional exchange penned by J.R.R. Tolkien as an introduction to such a critical examination as I offer below, I have done so because the imagery of this dialogue between the Hobbit Frodo and his guiding wizard Gandalf is such that it calls to mind, in all of us, a time when we are presented with a pivotal decision: the decision to step up or to step down, to take the easy road in response to a difficult issue, or to take the hard road.

Related: Is It Possible to Be a Transformational Advisor?

As I write this, I come from a telephone conversation with a colleague of mine who is agonizing over the manner in which his employer recently terminated a fellow employee—in a way that shredded the person’s self-esteem. My colleague is devastated by this, wondering should he say something internally, and to whom? Should he leave the organization? These are difficult questions. The answers to these questions lie in our fundamental values, but listening to those answers can be extremely difficult. We may be financially dependent on the organization. We may wonder if there is a reason behind the firing we have just witnessed that we are unaware of.

But we must listen to our values, and we must respond to the answers we hear. 

Standing on a slippery slope always leads to a fall, unless we get off it immediately. We must allow our values to correct our own behaviour—indeed it has to start here. From here we must be ready to act—in our business dealings, our community, indeed in our country—when we witness behaviour that is beneath that which is acceptable to reasonableness and fairness. It can take courage, for sure, but that is how we add value.    

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