Elvis Presley said, “Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.” 

At first blush, this seems very true. And yet, as I thought about it more and really reflected on it, I wonder if it’s our values that leave the fingerprints. From where I’m sitting, it seems more like it’s the consequences of our actions that leave the fingerprints.  

Well, you must say, yes, that’s true, but our actions are informed by our values. This is where I beg to differ. 

Acting Outside of Your Values 

I mean, let’s just look at Elvis, since he’s the maker of the quote. 

His values included, I think, being very loving. He was deeply in love with Priscilla, which never changed. He loved and cherished his parents. He also loved his country, enough to enlist. He was reportedly very generous, kind, loyal, and humble. Softspoken and polite. Clearly, he loved music and performing, but I think the value behind that was to make people feel things, like love and happiness.  

From my research, I think it’s likely that Elvis was an HSP – a Highly Sensitive Person (many musicians and artists are). I love that – a tender soul.  

However, we can see plenty of his actions that were destructive, too, particularly to himself. One may surmise that his sadness, particularly about lost love, led him into addiction. His behaviour – his actions – as an addict have left his fingerprints just as surely as his actions of gentleness and generosity. 

His actions left fingerprints. But not all of his actions were informed by, or generated from, his values, from who he was as a person. Sometimes, he acted in a way that was very unlike his true self. 

For all of us, sometimes we act in a way that is incongruent with our values. And those actions leave fingerprints, too. 

Let Go of Regret and Live by Design 

We’re far more complicated than a simplistic quote that may double as a guilt trip. If we focus on the times we let others down, step outside of our integrity, or take action based on a reaction, we might allow ourselves to start thinking we are that. Additionally, others may form judgments about us and decide who we are based on the times our actions come from a place not aligned with our values. 

I could allow the times I have disappointed myself or others, the times I have allowed anger or victimhood to guide my conduct, to be my story about who I am and assume that this must mean those are my values. This is not true. I wish I had a magic wand to wave over all of the people I know who have allowed their moments of indiscretion or misdirection to define them, leading them into a life of regret. This does not serve. 

How, then, can we move past our regret and live our lives leaving fingerprints that are aligned with our values? 

It must be by design. 

Doing the Work with Intention 

If you want to understand more about how to live by design, and also run your business or organization that way, please visit last week’s post where you’ll see the process for developing a values charter clearly laid out. I also recommend writing a personal being statement, described in this post. 

Recently, I was listening to Darren Hardy, who said something along the lines of, “You can’t reap the harvest if you haven’t planted the seed.” That is true, but when it comes to who we are and what we value, those seeds are already planted. The work now is to cultivate them, to foster them, to nurture them. We cannot harvest the life we want and become the person we aspire to be without focus and intention. The same is true for our businesses and organizations.  

Unless I am doing my personal work, I run the risk of bringing a person I don’t want to be, who is defined by injury, loss, injustice, and fear, into my work. 

I’ll have two podcast episodes coming out over the next few weeks talking about values and living by design, so please watch for that here. 

And, as always, stay on point!