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Values: Start here, Not where you want to be.

By Eve Vlemincx.


Values serve as the compass for personal and organizational identity, guiding decision-making and behavior. In this context, it's vital to distinguish between proclaimed values, which represent our ideals, and embodied values, which reflect our real-world practices.

It is crucial to begin with an honest assessment of existing values rather than fixating on the desired future state.

The Problem with Proclaimed Values

Frequently, the tools used to determine values prioritize our aspirations, focusing on "who we want to be" instead of acknowledging "who we are" and "what we stand for."

Such approach has its shortcomings:

1. Lack of self-awareness: Starting with proclaimed values sidesteps a crucial step - self-awareness. It's like embarking on a journey without knowing your current location on the map, making the path to your destination uncertain.

2. Inauthenticity: Proclaimed values can create a facade of perfection, leading to inauthenticity. This can alienate others who sense the insincerity, whether they are employees, customers, or partners.

3. Unrealistic expectations: A singular focus on an idealized endpoint can lead to unrealistic expectations, causing frustration and discouragement when progress isn't immediate.

The Power of Embodied Values

Embracing embodied values means acknowledging your actual behaviors, decisions, and interactions. This approach underpins genuine personal and organizational development:

1. Self-awareness: Recognizing and accepting current values is the foundation for growth. It's like taking stock of your assets and liabilities before embarking on a financial journey, providing a basis for informed decisions and realistic goals.

2. Authenticity: Embracing your current values fosters authenticity, building trust and genuine connections. Acknowledging areas for improvement humanizes you or your organization, making you more relatable.

3. Incremental progress: Embodied values offer a roadmap for incremental progress. Rather than striving for an ideal, one can focus on manageable steps towards improvement.

Putting embodied values into practice

Once you've acknowledged your embodied values, take these steps to align your actions with your values:

1. Identify behaviors that align with your values, providing clarity for practical implementation.

2. Share your values with your team or organization and encourage open dialogue and feedback.

3. Ensure accountability for adhering to embodied values through regular check-ins and evaluations.

4. Recognize and reward individuals and teams for living the values in practice.


In a world where the determination of values often emphasizes the desired future state, it is crucial to begin with an honest assessment of who we are today.

Embodied values form the basis for meaningful growth, promoting self-awareness, authenticity, and realistic progress.

By embracing the current values and working to align one’s actions with them, one can chart a genuine and sustainable path towards the future one aspires to achieve.


About the Author Eve Vlemincx is a strategic advisor with expertise in a wide array of areas including legal digital transformation, innovation and leadership. She serves as an advisory council member for Harvard Business Review and is a Course Facilitator at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Eve is highly sought after as a keynote speaker and guest lecturer in various professional settings. Notably, she has been honored as a five-time recipient of the Stanford GSB LEAD Award.

Operating at the dynamic intersection of legal and business, Eve holds certifications from esteemed institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Kellogg and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Additionally, she brings substantial experience as a seasoned lawyer specializing in corporate law and restructurings.

Eve's guiding philosophy is centered on working smarter, not harder, as she helps individuals and organizations navigate the complexities of today's rapidly evolving landscape.

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