Al Depman: Know your values first before you make important decisions

Each tax season, I do a values gut-check. Laid bare before me are the expenses and income statistics awaiting number-crunching software. These stats provide irrefutable evidence of my family's financial values.

It's a sobering experience.

To me, "values" are a set of core beliefs underlying and driving our decisions. Values-driven choices can be made deliberately or instinctively, slowly or quickly.

For the most part, these core values are unarticulated, sitting unattended and unrecognized by those professing them. We all operate from a core set of values even if undeclared.

To determine your core values, consider four factors:


1) How you spend your time. This is the great equalizer. Time is a fixed asset. Take a hard look at your schedule — from work time to personal time — to see how your choices reflect your priorities.

2) How you spend and earn your money. Look at how you budget your financial assets. The examination of your cash flow offers a glimpse of how you choose to spend your money. Is your budget balanced or are there habitual drains you ignore?

3) Relationships. Where are you spending your social assets? Take an inventory relationships with by opening your address book, Facebook page and other contact lists. Who are those people and what is the state of those relationships?

Relationships, as I strongly emphasize, cannot truly exist without a human touch. Literally. A touch — a face-to-face meeting, handshake, tap on the shoulder or hug — is needed to cement a "real" relationship. How many of the names you've uncovered are "real" relationships? These choices reflect your values.

4) The image you project. Image can be defined as the perception others have of you and you have of yourself. To others, you are a sum of external signals. You have probably expended quite a bit of time, money and social energy developing a public persona, but a true image is attained when self-image and the external image are consistent. This consistency results in self-esteem, which lets you bounce back quickly from adversity.

These criteria apply to organizations as well. My church, a mainline Protestant denomination, provides a good example. In the church budget, we annually spend:

• 67 percent for people (13 employees from pastor through part-timers)

• 13 percent on the physical building and grounds


• 20 percent for the worship and outreach ministries

What does this say about the church?

• We value our people above all else by a healthy margin, which leads to a discussion around how these people spend their work time, how they develop church-related relationships and how they contribute.

• We treasure our stately edifice and want to maintain a welcoming environment.

• We do the work of the church with the remaining 20 percent in a bewildering variety of local and global outreaches.

Regularly examining these elements keeps us honestly anchored in reality. We will be called upon to vote for a school referendum this year and political offices in 2016. In making decisions, don't just follow the money. Follow the time management, relationships and images of the school board (collectively and individually) and candidates. They speak volumes about the values of people and organizations.

But first, examine your, your family's and your employer's values. Then go ahead and cast that first stone.

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