Values — the way it is

Jane Horan
3 min readMar 17, 2022


(The Way it is — William Stafford)

Would you like your perspective or work to be different? Try this. Go for a stroll, accompanied by one poem. In our distracted world, poems bring clarity to the cluttered mind. Sadly if you say “poetry” it is often given short shrift or ignored.

But, but….

There is something unique in poetry that harmonizes and refocuses our attention. It’s a meditative approach to life, giving a greater sense of unity to everyone and everything.

For the past decade, William Sieghart has prescribed (yes, prescribed) poems to address maladies of the heart, mind and soul, and said, “Poems help you feel you are not mad, that what you are going through has been experienced by others.”

If you’re working in a difficult role or feeling disconnected, I’d recommend reading William Stafford or Olav Hague. Both offer a grounded perspective on work and life.

I found Stafford’s poem, The Way It Is, helps in the search for meaning at work, as he describes holding onto a thread, one that doesn’t change and keeps you centered. To me, values are the thread that holds everything together. During upheaval and times of uncertainty, holding onto your values is the foundation for which to stay steady.

Read Stafford’s poem to hear, feel, experience what I felt:

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursuing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding,

You don’t ever let go of the thread.

In my coaching the past few weeks, many executives have expressed deep concern over the lack of connection between what they do and what they feel is their purpose. When values are misaligned, that thread is broken, and an uneasy sense of being adrift sets in.

What we’ve lost is our sense of belonging — which is a fundamental physiological need, as is food, shelter, and security. As the poet, David Whyte reminds us, ‘to feel as if you belong is one of the great triumphs of human existence — and especially to sustain a life of belonging and to invite others into that…” Through two years of a pandemic many of us have lost that genuine sense of connection.

Formed early in life, values are our inner way of knowing ourselves. When disconnected, dissonance and feelings of emptiness clouds our reasoning. We become disoriented about choices or direction, with limited vision.

As we search for meaning at work, follow that thread. Follow those values which helps provide the direction to support your beliefs, priorities and proclivities. If you don’t know what that thread looks like? Reacquaint yourself with your values, and begin to recognize your unique point of difference. Each of us carry our own values which influence decisions and drives actions. But values are the thread that keep us whole during times of upheaval.

Nothing you can do will stop change from unfolding, but don’t ever let go of your values.