If you are new to Simon Sinek’s work it’s never too late to jump in! This is an oldie, but a goodie as a nugget of learning that I picked up from him several years ago. It has to do with getting crystal clear with our core values and how crazy things can be if we are NOT totally aware of what makes us tick.
To watch Simon’s short explanation of the The Celery Test in a video, click here.
In essence, the experiment illustrates that when we don’t know what we believe, and act in accordance with those beliefs, we end up trying to navigate through a hodgepodge of values and opinions that are not our own.
Cognitive dissonance arises from this space where our actions and our core beliefs are not reconciled. This dissonance can cause us to be self-conscious, insecure, and appear disingenuous to others. When we are not clear on the top 2 or 3 things that anchor the cornerstones of our value systems, things get cloudy.
Conversely, when we know what is true for us beyond all else, the values we have identified actually become a litmus test for decision making.
An easy example of this is someone who is routinely late, but says punctuality is a core value. No matter how much they say it is important to them to honor the time of others, they continue to chronically arrive to meetings and appointments 10-15 minutes late. There is a gap between the value and the action, which is where this inauthenticity can creep in.
Another example, and a much more personal one came from making the decision to pursue comfort measures for our Daughter who was dying in 1997, over therapeutic interventions that would have been futile.
At 13 months, Alexis could not make this decision for herself. But as her Mom, I knew the implications of that choice, it meant she would die soon. The difficulty of the decision was mildly abated since even in my 20s, I knew my core value was “quality of life” over “life at all costs and suffering.” Even though my heart was broken, I could proceed in a way that I would be able to live with later.
If you read nothing else by Simon Sinek, I highly recommend Start With Why (Ted Talk found here and the book is titled same). I used to routinely share this with my teams in the workplace, but as my example suggests, it applies in all decision making, and becomes increasingly more powerful as the degree of choice implications increases.
For more on identity and core values, I also recommend the best seller by James Clear entitled Atomic Habits which supports this theory that we act out our beliefs by the habits we choose. Paraphrasing, Clear says every action we take is a vote for the type of person we’d like to be, and those little votes pile up. Another required read for the teams I have led in the workplace, but oh so influential in my personal life.