Reducing Stress by Aligning With Our Values with MaryBeth Hyland


In this episode with leadership coach Mary Beth Highland, we dive deep into the concept of values and their connection to burnout. Mary Beth shares her personal journey of work addiction and how reevaluating her values helped her find peace and regain balance. She also outlines a practical approach to uncovering your core values, distinguishing them from aspirational or descriptive ones. We touch on strategies to align personal values with organizational ones and turn them into effective guidance for decision-making and behavior.

MaryBeth Hyland

MaryBeth Hyland is a bestselling author, coach and consultant on how to create a thriving life and business. She’s successfully led culture change efforts across nearly every industry. As a certified mediator, mindfulness instructor, and values expert she engages audiences and teams all over the world with her authentic style of facilitation, keynote speaking, and empowerment. She’s a published thought leader in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and New York Times to name a few. You can catch her interviews on how to reduce stress at work on ABC, CBS, and NBC.


This is a valuable conversation if you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of alignment, offering insights into the restorative power of understanding and acting on your values.

We talk about:

  • [0:00] Intro

  • [3:35] Being the Chief Visionary of Spark Vision

  • [6:35] Why she centered her book around values

  • [9:00] Her definition of values and how we can find the right words to identify ours

  • [9:50] The observation of organizations sometimes choosing non-heart driven ideas as their values

  • [13:20] Connecting company values to teams

  • [17:30] Building the muscle of talking about our values

  • [19:35] MaryBeth’s process for identifying individual core values

  • [25:25] My own experience examining my core values

  • [29:00] Using our values work after doing that initial deep dive

  • [31:35] Burnout and alignment to our values

  • [35:30] How we bridge the gap between personal values and organizational values

  • [41:20] How leaders can support organizational values while honoring their own

  • [46:20] The difference between guiding principles, code of conduct, values, and leadership competencies

  • [51:00] Rapid fire questions

Join MaryBeth and I for this conversation, as we get into the impact that understanding our values has on our overall success in life and within the workplace. You can find the full transcript of our conversation on my website, along with more information about MaryBeth and her work.

Thank you for being a part of my podcast community, and remember to stay tuned for more inspiring episodes to come!

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But one of my favorite quotes from the book is you’re not drained because you’re doing too much. It’s because you’re doing too little of what aligns with your values. And it’s, it’s really can be quite. Obnoxious to hear that from from if you’re in that stage of burnout, right? Like, Oh, give me a break.

Right. Yeah, I know because I’ve been there and I, you know, like, I, I know what it feels like to have somebody say that to you and you’d be like, come on, that’s not realistic, but really what we’re doing when we’re constantly violating our values is that we’re perpetuating this cultural norm for us to not actually live up to our potential.

And creating this cycle of burnout, overwhelm, stress, anxiety that we just normalize because we push our values to the side.

Carolyn: When I’m looking for guests to be on the show, I’m looking for people who have expertise and passion in one or all of these areas, self awareness, self regulation, and co regulation. My guest coming up on this episode, Mary Beth Highland, I believe her work fits into all three of these elements. And these three areas are crucial for leaders today.

If we’re going to in a really hectic business environment. Now, Mary Beth is the author of a bestselling book called Permission to be Human. You’re going to hear me inquire about how she came around to finding that values are really an important anchor and way to. elevate our self awareness. You’re going to hear me share my own experience with using her methodology, and I hope that we are going to be able to bring you some really practical tips to help.

avoid burnout and help manage the chaos. A few more things about Mary Beth before we get into that conversation. She has successfully led culture change efforts across nearly every industry. She’s a best selling author. Coach and consultant on how to create a thriving life and business. She is a certified mediator, mindfulness instructor and values expert, and she engages audiences and teams all over the world.

She has a really authentic style of facilitation, keynote speaking and empowerment. And she has been published in the wall street journal, the Washington post. And the New York times to name a few. She’s even got interviews on how to reduce stress at work on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Her life mission is to remind people the truth by giving full permission to be human.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

All right. We have got another awesome, awesome conversation coming up here with Mary Beth Highland and Mary Beth, I am so grateful that you and I stuck this out and finally having you on the show. Welcome.

Mary Beth: Thank you, and likewise,

Carolyn: Yeah. So, not that everybody needs to know all the back and forths of podcast production, but we were originally going to record this.

I think it was back in May. When we originally in touch with each other and I had been given access to your awesome book, permission to be human. I was all ready to go. And then just a whole bunch of life things happen for the two of us. So here we are in November recording it. When, when people get to hear it, it will be December and, and Mary Beth, a little bit about you for the audience, just to kind of let them know

 You are based in the U S I know you kind of go between Maryland and Idaho, and I love your title chief visionary of spark vision.

Mary Beth: yes.

Carolyn: you, could you just tell us a little bit about that? And then we’re going to get into this awesome book that you wrote.

Mary Beth: Yeah, so I live between a row home in Baltimore City. I’m right downtown in the heart of Baltimore. And a 200 square foot tiny home on 100 acre ranch in Idaho. So, they’re really like the 2 opposite ends of the extremes of the spectrum is, is the way I’m living right now, which is kind of cool and really humbling experience to learn about who you are in those different types of environments.

Carolyn: I bet.

Mary Beth: And yeah, and so with my business, Spark Vision, I have just the complete joy and privilege of working with high achievers, whether they are an entrepreneur or an executive, and they are in a place of experiencing burnout, experiencing overwhelming. Feeling like they’re out of alignment with themselves, but not wanting to compromise on their impact.

So I think a lot of people think that you have to be working, working, working, working, hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle, doing everything all the time for everybody, but yourself in order to be a quote unquote success. And so my work is to support those leaders and their organizations on how to slow down to get ahead and how to do that through harnessing their core values for a sense of alignment.

Carolyn: And so that’s really what led to permission to be human. When was that published here? It is the Kindle version.

Mary Beth: two years ago. So, July of 21, it was published and it’s been so amazing. You know, Carolyn, it’s the kind of thing and I’m, and I’m sure you’re going to experience this with your book as well, that I’m so shocked how many people reach out to me regularly with like a picture. Of them in the book or just this week I had somebody messaged me and on LinkedIn and they sent me a picture of their dog laying on the book.

Carolyn: Oh,

Mary Beth: just like, you know, people that I’m not even connected to in like, we’re not old friends or anything like that. But just knowing that the book continues to have a meaningful life is a very rewarding experience as a first time author.

Carolyn: and, and I loved your your subtitle to the conscious leaders guide to creating a values driven culture. And so I’m hoping today we can, we can talk about values driven cultures, obviously values and, and really this whole. Journey of pulling out of burnout. So many people, and I’m sure you’ve had your own journey with it.

I’ve had my own journey with it. And, and my hope is that people can learn from this or be inspired by it and find their own, their own way into more intentional actions and behaviors.

Mary Beth: Yes, it’s possible.

Carolyn: It is possible. Yes, it is possible. 

So let’s start with values. So you, I mean, I learned so much and I have to say like I’m certified in a values framework, Barrett values. anD so when I was reading your book, I thought, okay, I, I, I’m going to know about values. You cracked open a whole new perspective on it for me. And, and there’s one quote Transcripts At the beginning and I’m not sure if it’s yours, if it was in the forward, but it, it says when you unlock the language of values, you will be able to translate the ebbs and flows. And I think I kind of knew that, but when you wrote it in like ebbs and flows, it really helped me embody the fact that like life is going to throw a lot of stuff your way and values really kind of, they’re the anchors.

Mary Beth: Yes. 

Carolyn: So yeah, So tell us a little bit about how you discovered, like why you’ve centered your work in your book around values.

Mary Beth: Yeah. I, I, and I know we have so much in common when it comes to this too, Carolyn of just the value of values Right. and how meaningful they are. But I gotta tell you, I get asked if this question pretty often is like, why are you so passionate about values and the like. Unpopular response that I give is like, I’m actually not that passionate about values.

I’m passionate about the language that values unlock for us.

Carolyn: Love it.

Mary Beth: Right? So it’s not necessarily values as a branding and marketing exercise, which is what typically most people are familiar with, right? Pick some words off of a list. Now you’ve got your values. Now say what they mean. Check done. 

Carolyn: Right.


Mary Beth: My work is really around how can we translate why you’re feeling a sense of energy right now, an aliveness purpose, right?

It’s because you’re in alignment with your values.

And why is it that when you’re feeling drained, depleted, burnt out, it’s because you’re violating your values. And so it gives us both an anchor and a compass for What is the next choice that I can make that is in alignment with my values and not either intentionally or unintentionally violating those values?

Values are a language that we all are fluent in. We just didn’t realize it because we haven’t been given the invitation to unlock that possibility.

Carolyn: So can you just give us your definition of what values are and how can we find the right words to identify what our values are?

Mary Beth: Yeah, our values are intrinsic motivators that gives us a sense of aliveness and purpose. So, intrinsic motivators is new for anybody listening. It’s really like what authentically naturally inside of you makes you feel happy, excited, a sense of joy, a sense of purpose. It is not an external factor of a promotion or a raise or somebody telling you that they think you’re really cool.

It’s coming from inside of you. So your values are motivated. I always say that our heart is the keeper of our values. And so when you’re truly in alignment with your values, it is this rejuvenating cycle that comes from inside of you.

Carolyn: Wow. And so when you say they’re connected to our heart, that makes me think too, it helps drive our connection and our ability to be vulnerable with people too. Like ideally,

values, values unlock that. So here’s an interesting question. In my values work through Barrett value center, and they’ve got this great tool that helps people in organizations that identify their top values.

And 1 thing that we see continually come through on the results is the value of accountability. And I always struggle with that because to me, accountability is not necessarily a heart driven thing. It’s sort of a desire. It’s an outcome. And I’m just curious what your thoughts are on that.

Mary Beth: Yeah, I find it to be such a great question because a lot of times when people are thinking about their values, especially for their company, they’re thinking about they, how they want other people to behave.

Carolyn: Right.


Mary Beth: So it’s like, I want other people to be accountable

and so that’s why I’m going to say this is one of the most important values for me within this organization’s accountability when I used to do culture analysis where we use the values as the tool to see where you’re in and out of line with your values, which is literally written out in permission to be human, how to do this work step by step.

But it was an experience where I’d ask people the question 3 ways. How in alignment are you with the value of accountability? How in alignment is your team with the value of accountability? And how in alignment is your organization with the value of accountability? And you can probably guess that most people thought they were very accountable, but everybody else wasn’t.

So what does that tell us about where’s the disconnect? Because ultimately if every single individual thinks they’re really accountable, but yet collectively they’re not? This is a really big eye opening opportunity to say, where’s the disconnect? Because values always start within ourselves. They’re intrinsic motivators, right?

They don’t, that’s what authentic values are about versus. Branding or marketing exercises, which I’m not, I’m not poo pooing those. I think that’s actually, they have a role and a purpose and they’re a great starting point. I just want to make that clear, but it’s like, if you say accountability, but then you do nothing about it, you got to start looking in the mirror first.

Carolyn: Right.

Mary Beth: How am I being accountable to myself right now? How am I not? Right? Where do I need to change and set different boundaries so that I actually am being accountable to myself? Because if I’m not being accountable to myself first, I really can’t ask other people to be accountable. I have to embody that within myself first.

To authentically get that we’ve all been in companies where it’s like, well, all the worker bees need to be accountable, but the powers that be, you know, that does, it’s not the same. Like, we’re going to use a different set of rules and that there’s nothing worse than that for a team and a culture to feel disengaged or you know, feel unempowered in like, wait a second.

I thought you said these were our core values and they really mattered, but it only matters for me. It doesn’t matter for you. So that’s why I think there’s a great invitation to get even more curious and allow people to take it inside of themselves first, and then go to their team and the organization at 

Carolyn: I I just, I really love that approach is they’re connected, they’re connected to our heart.

 I mean, what I’ve, what I’ve noticed is again, values, teamwork, like there’s usually the five same values more or less doing organizational culture work. And again, like you said, I’m not saying it’s bad. What I do find though, is it’s really easy to profess those values and. They look great on the wall, but for us to actually be connected with them, there needs to be a level of vulnerability, a level of emotional connection to them. And that’s not something any boss or anybody else can tell us. That’s up to us internally.

Mary Beth: Right. And it’s an opportunity for the boss or the leadership to Create spaces where you can have those dialogues, create spaces where that is a part of your one on one review, right? Create spaces where when you’re onboarded, it’s an expectation, or even in the interview process, you ask people about these values so that you don’t just tell them later, Oh, by the way, we expect you to really care about these things now that you’re already here on the team.

Versus like, this is a way to filter through if you’re a good fit. For, for this team, if you authentically hold these values or you want to, there are aspirational values for you because there isn’t anything worse than like one of the examples I gave in the book is there’s this one company that I’ve worked with where they have this like soul, a soul opening session once a week where everybody comes together and shares what’s like on their soul.

Well, for some people that is like the most amazing invitation of all. For other people, that would be like the scariest, worst, like most awful situation you put in because that’s just not where they are with, and that’s not good or bad. It’s just a truth about if you didn’t disclose that, you know, that spirituality was one of the core values of that organization.

And you expect somebody to hop into that later. It’s not fair to either of you. It’s, it’s not setting anybody up for success in that way. And I’m going to tell you, you know, Carolyn, one of the things that really. Was rewarding for me and my own work and when I was doing workplace culture analysis and doing multi year culture shift engagements was I always thought like.

I don’t understand why this is so hard for everyone. Like, you know, like this is, this is just standard human stuff, right? But what I learned is that quote unquote standard human stuff is actually quite complex for most people.

And I’m very grateful that Brene Brown has been doing a lot of research in this area recently.

And her research shows that less than 10 percent of companies that have defined values do anything to operationalize them.

Carolyn: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s it’s hard and it’s sad and I know values change the way that I was able to lead and I’m, I’m thinking very specifically about an individual I hired and I asked them, I, I chose two values that our company had and I asked them to share. Real life examples where that value was being compromised and what they did.

And that really aligns to a quote in your book about the fact that our values get really tested in moments of, of tension, right? Like when we’re able to show up or when we just say we’re going to do it, but we And this individual was so clear in how. They were able to navigate through that tension, but how the value of, of whatever it was, I can’t remember the exact value led them to doing the right thing. And when I asked that question to a few other candidates, most of the other ones, they gave me like a stock version that I think they thought I wanted to hear. So, you know, interestingly enough, this, this person didn’t necessarily, wasn’t the same as all the other folks, but I can tell you in terms of trust, I always trusted that they would one, come to me if they were ever needing any help and trusting that they were being guided by this compass, this compass of values.

Mary Beth: Yeah, and that is a muscle to build, right? Unfortunately, it’s not common practice for us to grow up talking about our values and understanding where we’re in alignment or out of alignment with them and how we can harness them for our boundaries and for our well being and all those wonderful things that values are a tool for and so it can be really daunting to people who make it into a workplace who all of a sudden cares about values and that’s just like a Brand new to them, and they have no idea.

And so they start performing, right? Like what you’re saying, like, it’s a, it’s a performative act of like, what’s the right story for me to tell here

versus what is my authentic experience with that? Because that’s actually what the question is about. And just to be, confident enough in their ability to be vulnerable at whatever level that is, anytime we’re talking about our values, there’s vulnerability involved, right?

Carolyn: If

we’re truly talking about our values

Mary Beth: The depth of our values, right? Versus we can have very safe, high level conversations about like, how would you define that value?

Right. That’s that’s pretty standard. Something that people wouldn’t be as uncomfortable with. It still has a certain level of vulnerability because you want to know, does your definition match my definition?

And am I right or not? To get other people’s approval. And so that’s a big part of my work is to help people in recognizing that it doesn’t matter what Google says. It doesn’t matter what your partner says, your best friend, your boss or whoever. It doesn’t actually matter what any of them think about the definition of that value.

The only thing that matters is what you think and how it defines what your definition of it is. When you’re doing that on an individual level, once we get to the company, we need to adhere to a shared definition of what the value means. And so that’s where there can be some really fascinating conversations and openings to be able to say, Oh, you know, one of the values here is Empathy.

My definition for that is this. I see your definition of that is that I wonder, you know, where there’s crossover and where there’s uniqueness and how I can build on my personal experience with it to enhance the overall culture here.

Carolyn: Yeah, yeah. 

Now I know Marybeth, you do a lot of work based on what I read helping individuals identify their own values. So can we talk about that and then sort of make that link to culture or organizational values?

But I want to talk a little bit about your process. I, I did it gave you full credit.

I used it with a client and I said, this is all the work of, of Mary Beth Highland and and, and showed them your book and everything. And, and then I did it myself. So I went back and did sort of a values audit myself. And I, I haven’t seen anything like this. It really helped. Separate between what really drives me, what do I wish draw like would drive me and what sort of, just sort of like, yeah, this describes me.

So can you share with the audience just sort of high level what your process is to helping people really get to core values.

Mary Beth: Yeah. So, sometimes, the process is really like, here’s a list, pick from the list, and it’s just like, pick the ones that drive you the most. And the way that I look at it is, It’s actually from four categories. One is your core values. So the things that drive you, the things that you’re really supercharged energized for.

The other is your aspirational values. So the things that you wish drove you, but if you’re being honest with yourself, that’s not your normal day to day experience.

Then we have values that don’t resonate with you and it’s exactly what it sounds like, right? They’re, they’re just not your values. And then finally, there are.

values straight up. Those are things that describe you, but they don’t necessarily drive you. So I’ll give you an example. Like politeness is something that I really value in the sense of if you were to leave this show today and said, Mary Beth was the rudest guest I ever had on this podcast, I would feel awful about that.

Like that would violate a part of who I am at my core. It’s like a foundational piece of me. And then. If I think about that very same value of politeness, I don’t wake up in the morning going, I can’t wait to be polite today. Right? Some people actually do. I didn’t think that they did until I started doing this work with thousands of people all over the world.

And I found out that some people actually have a driving core value of politeness. And then they say, but I wish it didn’t. Most of the time because they’ve learned that they make themselves smaller to make other people comfortable Using the guise of politeness. So then we’ve got that other level of like perhaps these are your core values But maybe there’s some core values that you wish didn’t drive you

Carolyn: interesting. Okay. So, so you actually have quadrants, right?

That you invite people. So take the list and put them into those, those quadrants. Does this drive me? Do I wish it drove me? Does it describe me? I eat politeness or fairness for that came up for me. And then not resonate with me.

Mary Beth: hmm,

Carolyn: And then, and then where do they go from there?

Mary Beth: and then they can go through the process of then narrowing down Okay, now that I’m looking at these In these quadrants, which, by the way, if you go to core values quiz dot com, we have a free core values profile that will get generated and emailed to you within a couple minutes.

 so if anybody wants to do this and have a nicely designed piece, you can always do it by hand too.

Um, but it’s kind of nice to have that too. So.

Carolyn: was corevaluesquiz.

Mary Beth: Correct 

Carolyn: We’ll make sure that’s in the show notes

Mary Beth: Thanks, Carolyn. And so what I invite you to do from there is to start looking at that drives you section, that core value section and start to notice, are there families of values? Right. So for me, some families of values would be things like authenticity, empathy, vulnerability for me.

I can’t be authentic without empathy and vulnerability. Those are very much connection. May even be in there for me. Like, they are a family of values that work together. So you can start to see if this was a family of values, who was the head of that family?

What’s actually the most powerful among them?

And so for me, in that example, it would be authenticity. That is where I would personally go. That’s sort of like the umbrella to the others where you, you, it gets experienced that because. Well, it can be pretty cool to see that you have like 25 core values. It can also be really overwhelming and daunting to be like, what do I do with this?

This is like, like, how do I actually do something with this? And so the invitation is the next step is to narrow it down, narrow it down to the three to five that feel like they are the ones that if you were to think about yourself in a day to day experience, if I had these three to five things in a day, would I be energized?

Would I feel a sense of aliveness? Would I be the most me? Right? Like the me est me in that day? And then from there you go through the process of defining them. What does that actually mean to you? Just like we were saying earlier in this conversation. Not, not what you can find online, but what does it mean to you?

Carolyn: Right. Right. And getting really specific about a statement or two, not again, worrying about other people.

Mary Beth: Exactly.

Carolyn: And boom, there you have it. There are your core values.

Mary Beth: There are, there are core values and that’s just the beginning.

That’s where most people stop.

Carolyn: right.

Mary Beth: That’s where the check mark gets placed on the to do list and it’s like, did it? Did my values work?

Carolyn: And, and also that still does give us, some direction

in terms of what’s important to us too. 

So I just, I just wanted to pause there for a second and share with you when I went back and re Like, just reexamine my values because I was finding, so I used to say that my, my two core values were courage and learning, and it made a lot of decisions based on those things.

A lot of decisions for me about learning. I love to acquire new knowledge comes up in strengths. Like it comes up in all sorts of different areas, my quest for learning, but I was starting to feel that it wasn’t. Deep enough. It wasn’t to use, you know, what you said earlier, it wasn’t being a compass for me. So when I, I used your process, what I came down to was grace and humility,

Mary Beth: Oh, wow. That’s awesome.

Carolyn: opened the door for me to realize using it as a compass. And, and so when I go through my day to have the grace and just the, the reflection, the ability to pause. I mean, I wrote down, actually I might even have it here.

I wrote down what they meant to me and, and it was more about not like reacting right away, having the grace to listen a little bit of curiosity there. And then the humility part was a reminder that. I don’t always have the right answer, even when I think I’m right, and to have the humility to listen and to just put myself in check.

And so even though I only took it to that sort of level now, granted, I know I have lots of other experience and values that has really helped me through some tricky days. And I just, Carolyn, remember grace and humility and and it’s just sort of, it gives me that energy to realize, okay, you know, courage and learning.

Yes, they’ve served me well, but where I’m at now, grace and humility just feels much deeper and much more like, what I needed right now.

Mary Beth: That’s so powerful. But congratulations, right? Because When you said, you said, and that wasn’t, that was like enough, right? That was what I needed for that moment. The here’s the difference between what you described. And I think what the majority of folks do is they do the exercise and then they never think about it again.

Carolyn: Right.

Mary Beth: So you’ve actually chosen to do the exercise and say, this is now my compass. This is my anchor. And even if all I do is recite. That to myself, that this, these are the two things that matter most to me in this season of my journey. That is doing something about it.

Carolyn: Right. And, and for me, they were very much grounded. Like a big aha for me was the values grounded me on who I wanted to be versus what I wanted to do.

Mary Beth: Yes. Yes. 

Carolyn: Like learning is a doing like learning and courage to me were like doing something and grace and humility was about being. And when for me processing it where I’m at was if I can be this way, then I will be courageous and I will learn. Thank you. Yeah. So again, you know, wherever anybody’s at in their journey, I think, you know, all of this values work really leads to self awareness. And so wherever people are at with their values journey, it’s so important to get grounded in them because it just, again, anchors compass. but I’d love to hear from you where, like you said, that’s just the first start, like the first stop.

Where can we take values after that?

Mary Beth: Yeah, there’s, I mean, we can take them into every nook and cranny. I mean, really, we can, we can, from the ways that we invest our money, right? To the clothing that we wear, right? You’re talking about me and my hat, and it’s, this is an expression of my values. To the people we invest our time and energy in, to the jobs that we choose or don’t choose, the clients that we choose or don’t choose the way that we set boundaries, I think that’s the, that’s one of the biggest.

Invitations that most people haven’t received around with our values is that values actually are boundaries when you truly live in alignment with them, you’re able to say yes and no with so much more grace and ability to do that from a sense of. Clarity because you just know, actually that’s going to suck the life out of me

if I do that, or that’s going to be exactly what is nourishing and nurturing my energy and my soul.

And so it really comes from an abundance mindset. You know, a lot of times people are like, well, that’s not realistic because. need to pay my bills, right? I need to keep the lights on. I got to do what I got to do. And that’s going to require me to violate my values in the process of doing that. And I hear you.

So, so I want to acknowledge that’s real. I get that I have lived in that place for a very long time. That’s when I was at the height of my work addiction. I was actually clinically diagnosed with a work addiction when I was 22 years old.

Carolyn: Oh, my. I mean, a doctor actually said you’re addicted to work.

Mary Beth: yeah. My psychologist. 

Carolyn: Wow. Which, by the way, we know the World Health Organization declared an epidemic a few years ago. So your doctor was on it

Mary Beth: Way before I knew it was a thing. Way before I knew it was a thing. And I was like, wait, what are you talking about? Like, I’m successful. This is what’s required. To be successful, right? Working nonstop seven days a week, always, you know, having something else, some projects, some new ideas, something I needed to birth into the world when I was inside of my last organization, before I went off on my own.

And then that carried with me when I started my own business, it was like, well, that means. If I’m a success, it means I have to be hustling. I have to be grinding. I have to be doing what I did to be a success in my last job to now have this work in my own business. And what I found is that I was violating my own values all the time, all the time.

And I was going around coaching people on how to live in 

Carolyn: are you saying then. 

Mary Beth: their 

Carolyn: If we are feeling burnt out, that there is going to be a direct correlation to our ability or inability to be aligned in our values. So let’s repeat that again, because I’ve been there, I’ve, I’ve done the burnout thing one like horrible, horrible burnout, another close one. And I lost track of my values. It was just, it just was like with everything going on, you get caught up in the wheel of life. And I forgot what they were. And so that is a really big, huge step that people have control over.

Mary Beth: Yeah, absolutely. One of the, one of my favorite books quotes from the book is you’re not drained because you’re doing too much. It’s because you’re doing too little of what aligns with your values

Carolyn: Oh, that’s, that’s amazing.

Mary Beth: and it’s, it’s really can be quite obnoxious to hear that from, from, if you’re in that stage of burnout, right?

Like, Oh, give me a break. Right.

I know because I’ve been there and I, you know, like, I, I know what it feels like to have somebody say that to you and you’d be like, come on, that’s not realistic. Yeah. But really what we’re doing when we’re constantly violating our values is that we’re perpetuating this cultural norm for us to not actually live up to our potential and creating this cycle of burnout, overwhelm, stress, anxiety that we just normalize because.

We push our values to side, to the side and for the sake of other people’s values. You know, most of my life I was driven by values like success and achievement and wealth

Carolyn: Ambition.

Mary Beth: because, because I was told I was programmed from the time I was a kid to believe that those are the things that gave me love.

So when I would do and adhere to those values, I would be celebrated, I would be rewarded, and when I didn’t, I was punished. You know, there was, there was real, I mean, I came from an abusive home, so it’s, it’s, it was really, it was extreme in the, like, if you don’t perform, There are consequences. And that was in all aspects of life, not just school or job or whatever.

So it was an experience where I really thought… Well, I need to do these things perfectly and exactly and way ahead of schedule or else I am a total failure. And what did that lead me to getting a ton of awards, getting like, you know, the fastest person raising up in my company. I was recognized for the world best practice model globally for the largest nonprofit in the world for what I was developing.

And I was not able to I was constantly worried when people were going to figure me out. With imposter syndrome, I was in a place of just always, never, it was never good enough. I always had so much more people on the outside thought, wow, she’s a superstar rockstar. She’s making everything like all of us all want.

I was miserable. I was miserable on the inside because I was crushing my soul in order to look successful and play the role from what I thought everybody else wanted from me versus slowing down, tuning in and actually being in alignment with my gifts and my values and not just all the things I could do because I happen to be able to make them work.

But more of like, what was I born to do? What do I love doing? What gives me the greatest sense of energy? And how can I tap on other people who they get the greatest sense of energy from the things that I don’t, right? That’s the gift of how we are as humans. We’re not all energized by the exact 

Carolyn: No. And, and we can all have different values and co exist and co create and collaborate really well.

And that, that, that’s going to lead me to my next question, cause I hear this often. Well, what if my values aren’t the same as my organizations? Like I have to value teamwork or collaboration or accountability. How do you help people bridge that gap between personal values and organizational values?

Mary Beth: Yeah. It’s a great, it’s a great question. And, and one that I also get often because Obviously, in the ideal rainbows and sunshine, everything’s working out perfectly situation, we wouldn’t work for an organization that we didn’t share the values with,

but that’s not always meeting you where you are, right?

That’s it. That may not, you know, you’ve been in this place for 10 years and all of a sudden you realize this is not out of alignment with your values, but you still like being there. Now, let me just say that if you don’t like being there, then look for another job

that is in alignment with your values.

So that’s like the first kind of like newsflashes, if you are unhappy, if you are drained, if you feel like the culture is toxic, if you feel like, you know, there’s no hope for you in feeling in a sense of activation of your own values. Go find a place that does, that’s, that’s the first invitation. If you’re in a place where you want to make it work, but you’re like, you know, there’s some conflicts here.

There’s some disconnect here, but I, but I really love these parts of it. I would encourage you to look at what you, what aspects of it do light you up. Right? So teamwork for people who are super introverted and collaboration is like, The worst possible thing to ask you to, like, can we just, like, get this project done on my own, like, effectively the way that I know how right?

And so, so there could be the kind of thing that even within an organization, there are different roles that don’t require the same amount of teamwork or collaboration, right? There are some roles that are way more autonomous. Maybe there are opportunities for you to collaborate or engage in teamwork in a way that has different boundaries around it.

Like, no, I, I actually don’t want to start a team project where we meet every single day for happy hour. Afterwards. But I, I do, I do enjoy seeing people, you know, once a month in this kind of capacity. So to be able to voice too, I think a lot of times we become victims of other people’s values and sort of the common practices of what everybody else is doing.

And you hope somebody will read your mind or you just mute yourself and you just push yourself into an experience that you really don’t want to be a part of. And so my invitation, if, if. If you’re listening and that sounds like you is to think about like, what could I say, you know, how could I use my own voice to say, you know, actually, when I go to happy hours, it’s really draining for me.

Could we see what else is possible? I actually worked with a woman who didn’t drink and she said the whole. Culture of that organization was happy hours and it was like that was their answer to teamwork It was their like team building was around happy hours And she said it made her so uncomfortable because it was first of all it was against her religious practices to drink and then everyone would start like getting drunk and it made her feel really Like, you know, she was kind of like an outcast in this environment.

And so she built up the courage and vulnerability to be able to share with her team why she wasn’t going to be able to go to the happy hours in the way that she had in the past. And what her, what she was hoping they could do instead, like, could we do a team lunch or could we get together and like play a game?

Or something that just didn’t feel like this forced team building that was a violation of her values and the entire organization changed their policies around happy hours as a result.

Carolyn: So that moment that is, it’s brave and it can be hard to declare what it means to you and I, in this case for, for this person and look what happened.

Mary Beth: They were, and that’s a good sign of like, you’re in the right place, 

Carolyn: right?


Mary Beth: she were to have gone and said, you know, this and everyone said, well, toughen up like you can’t always get what you want. Right? That would be a. Really big flag that says, okay, now it’s time for me to look for the next place, right?

Or have a conversation with somebody else or see what other avenue there may be for this. But I cannot continue to violate my core values for the sake of somebody making somebody else happy. So I would just encourage you if you’re in this place to start, take a baby step from where you are. Maybe CEO is like not the first step.

Maybe the first step is having that conversation with yourself and believing that it’s worthy. And then maybe after that, it’s somebody who you know, love and trust that can, you can just go and play around with what that might sound like. And you can slowly work your way up because it is a muscle to strengthen and it does take a lot of courage.

It’s very vulnerable to say. This violates my values especially in an environment where you haven’t had that kind of a conversation in the past.

Carolyn: Yeah. And, and that I’ve been using, I’ve used the words. Rubbed against my values. So it’s sort of like it gets a little itchy or it gets a little, yeah, it gets a little uncomfortable, a little bit itchy. And that’s a sign that we need to speak up and speak into things. Cause you know, as you said, as you said in your book, commitment to values comes in those moments of tension when you lean on your values to move forward in a way that won’t with your conscience. Yeah.

Mary Beth: Thanks for reminding me of these great quotes.

Carolyn: welcome. You’re welcome. Yeah.

Mary Beth: Oh, that 

Carolyn: that was a good one. Yeah, that was a good one. 

now here’s a one final question. And then I can’t believe how fast this time has gone. a Final question for you is how can leaders support the organizational values? In a way that honors their own individual values, and it’s a bit different than what I, what I was asking before. And here’s what I see happen often is, and maybe it is a bit of a repeat, but it bears repeating in my mind. We can get so hung up on the company values. And, and we just try and like fall in under those. So how can leaders use their own values to power the company values and my, I

Mary Beth: Yes, I, yep, I got you. I’m, I’m right there with you.

Yeah, I, and I appreciate the, the, the slightly different. You know, lens of looking at this. And so I would go back to what we were talking about, about families of values, right? So if teamwork is something that doesn’t resonate with you, what are maybe components of teamwork that do, right?

What, what are the aspects of it? What might be the sibling values,

Carolyn: Right.

Mary Beth: that really resonate with you that really are authentically motivating? intrinsically, like from, they live in your heart. Nobody’s going to tell you, you got to put them there. It’s already there. And so I would invite you to consider what is the, what relationships this value have to others that is authentically me.

Carolyn: Love 

Mary Beth: make sense?

Carolyn: It makes a ton of sense. Cause I think, I think when we look at it that way, we can see. We’ll be able to learn more about ourselves too, to see what value are we maybe over indexing on in how we work with each other,

Mary Beth: Totally. 

Carolyn: right? Like, you know, something that comes to mind for me might be teamwork and collaboration.

I might over index on that at the expense, maybe of an ambitious or driving results sort of competition type value. And again, self awareness that can help me understand where I might not be as connected to other people on my team if we don’t share that same sort of bend towards one or the other.

Mary Beth: Right. And that’s where you can also. Really customize this to the individual to sometimes I think it can get really confusing. I’ve, I’ve gone into, I worked with like a lot of hospital systems and higher education, like universities and colleges. And so there’s like a lot of people that work in those institutions.

Right? So what can happen a lot of the times is that different departments decide we have our own set of 

Carolyn: Right. 

Mary Beth: So there’s like this overarching set of values for the institution at large. And then like, well, our team has decided that these are the most important values. And so that can create a lot of incongruency in somebody’s experience as a, it’s not a unified culture.

And so similarly to this, like, what do they mean to you? Whenever I’m working with, or I did, I don’t do that work anymore, but when I would go in and do these culture analysis, we would say, okay, so how are these values that you’ve decided are for just your department? How do they relate? And

Carolyn: Right.

Mary Beth: To the bigger ones.

And how can we just change your value promises? So that your value promises, which is essentially what is what I call for a code of conduct around your values. How can you create a code of conduct or a set of value promises that are aligned with the ones that you. You just you named for yourself, but they’re actually connected to the overarching.

Ones for the institution at large, because the way. Values are something you live. But too often, they’re just something that you profess the only way that it’s an actual culture, but it’s the way things are done around there is if it’s the lived experience. And so if people are like, I do not resonate with these values, that is an opportunity to say, well, what, how can you even said you did this with your own clients?

Like, where have you used this value in your own life? Whether or not it’s at work and it served you and so you can start to get the wheels turning around. Oh, actually collaboration has served me in this way and this way. And then it kind of creates that bridge. To have a conversation by meeting people where they are versus saying like, your values suck.

We’re just going with the main ones. You’ve got to dump them. You got to get rid of them. A huge part of my work used to be like really making people feel safe and sharing this. And the worst way to like, get rid of that safety is to say, we’re going to just trash your values right now. Cause you were wrong.

You should have never created these in the first place.

It’s like, no, we have to honor what went into that.

Carolyn: right, right. 

I have one final question for you and it’s a bit of semantics, but I hear it with different clients. What’s the difference in your opinion between guiding principles? Code conduct, values, leadership competencies, like companies that have all of those things, doing them and creating them with good intention. How do you distinguish between all of those?

Mary Beth: Yeah, so this is actually one of my Pet peeves maybe is the, is, is the nice way to say it, but like every time I see them, like those are core values, right? And that’s only because this is my area of expertise, right? Like at the end of the day, it’s, you’re not getting graded on this. It’s not like you did it right or you did it wrong.

So it’s just a personal pet peeve of mine when people start saying like, do the right thing is our core value,


And so, okay. What does do the right thing boil down to? Is it trust? Is it accountability? Is it empowerment? Right, like what does, what is the value? Which is typically a noun. Values are typically nouns.

Do the right thing isn’t a noun, that’s a statement. So that may be a guiding principle in a statement like that. It may be a value statement. But it is not a value. So, that’s, that’s, I think that people are doing a lot of company manifestos and calling it their values. Like they’ll say, this is our values manifesto.

I saw something going around a while ago. I think it was like Nike’s values manifesto. There wasn’t a single value anywhere in there. It was just. Statements like do the right thing, right? Like we are one. What does that mean? Does that mean unity? Does that mean collaboration? I don’t know. Because even just making a statement like that For me personally, I don’t know what to do with it

Carolyn: Right.

Mary Beth: and so in the work that I get to do it’s about Not only Selecting and really uncovering more than selecting, uncovering what are the authentic core values here.

But how do we define those uniquely? And then if you want to create a manifesto or guiding principles or you know, value statements around it. Fabulous. But get really clear on what’s at the core of those statements before you are pulling really punchy nicely branded statements that feel good. Like I’ve seen so many people now doing ones like no jerks allowed is like their values.

not, that’s not really a value, 

Carolyn: That’s it. That you’d call that a statement, right? A


Mary Beth: Yeah, that could be a guiding principle. That could be a value statement, but it’s, it’s not a value.

Carolyn: Yeah. And it’s not a description of the value

Mary Beth: Right. It’s something that you value. I think that’s where people get really confused. Something that you value is usually outside of you.

Carolyn: Hmm.

Mary Beth: Your core values are inside of you.

Carolyn: Connected to the heart.

Mary Beth: Exactly.

Carolyn: Yeah. Well, Mary Beth our time is coming to a close.

 Is there any, before we get to the three questions I ask every guest, is there, are there any final words you would like to leave the audience with?

Mary Beth: Yeah. Thanks for asking that. I just want to encourage people to give themselves permission to be human in this journey. A lot of times people give up really quickly because they think it’s supposed to fall into a place easy peasy, that it’s all going to make sense right away, that if it doesn’t, then it’s not right for me or it’s too hard.

And so I just want to encourage you to give yourself permission to be human and to recognize. That values are something that exists every day, whether we do something about them or not. So it’s an invitation to be able to say, you know what, I’m going to do something about it today. And if I didn’t do it yesterday or the day before, that’s okay.

I don’t need to judge myself for that. I can just recognize that I have another choice that I can make right now.

Carolyn: Hmm. It’s wonderful. And hey, there’s a great book called Permission to be Human. Did you know that? 

And Marybeth, where could our audience reach out to you if they wanted to follow any of the work you do or check out your website?

Mary Beth: so I’m super active on LinkedIn which my name is Mary Beth Highland, H Y L A N D. My website is I have, I have two, if people are interested in, in speaking, I have marybeth speaks. com and then I also have spark vision now. com.

Carolyn: Perfect. Well, we’ll make sure to get those into the show notes. Now, as I said, there are three questions. Are you ready? Are

Mary Beth: so ready. I’m

super excited.

Carolyn: So these are three questions that I believe create a foundation for a really strong trauma informed leader without saying the word trauma. So, Self awareness is the first one. And is there a, you know, short little anecdote or story, something you want to share with everybody that really elevated your awareness? They really increased your self awareness.

Mary Beth: Yeah. Immediately this story came to mind. And it was. At the height of my work addiction, I already talked about that a bit. So I won’t go into the details, but I really wasn’t home. You know, I was really working all the time. I was falling asleep with my laptop on my chest on the couch downstairs.

Like it was bad. And there was one morning where I, I did make it to bed and my husband was working at finance at the time and he Got up at like 5 a. m for his work and I was there I was in bed and he rolled over and he said it’s so good to see you And I was like What are you talking about? You see me all the time because I ran a young professionals program then so he was a young professional So he’d come to my programming But it was this experience where he’s like, well, yeah, but I don’t like really see you usually I’ve already like started working or you’ve fallen asleep on the couch.

So I don’t usually see you when I wake up in the morning and it was that mirroring that he did with so much love, you know, he wasn’t judging me. He wasn’t telling me I needed to change. He was just saying how nice it was to see me. That was what ignited self awareness and I have a problem and I don’t know what to do.

I have no idea what step one is. The only thing that I know how to do is to work more. That’s the only thing I know how to do, how to make my racing thoughts stop is to just get up and work. Because that’s how I could slow them down. But his love of saying, it’s so good to see you was this life changing moment in my life where I finally got help.

Carolyn: Wow. That’s amazing. That’s amazing. 

Okay. Second question is around self regulation. So is there a practice or ritual that you really look to, to help bring yourself into regulation or into a calm state?

Mary Beth: So many. There are so many. I’m like, which one do I choose? I would say the one that I use daily. So I, I, I do a daily practice every morning. So in the, the opening, the introduction to the book, Permission to be Human, there’s a pledge. It’s called the Permission to be Human pledge. And every morning, when I get to the bathroom and I brush my teeth, I put my hand on my heart and I start rubbing my heart.

This is where my values live, right? So I really connect with my heart and I recite the Permission to be Human pledge. And it creates this grounding experience for me. And it’s just a series of statements. So it’s, I promise to honor what makes me perfectly imperfect. I promise to meet myself where I am, not where I want to be.

I promise to suspend judgment and ignite compassion. I promise to set healthy boundaries to protect my energy. I promise to prioritize my well being by embodying my values. And in doing so, I promise to give myself and others permission to be human.

Carolyn: Oh, that’s amazing.

I think I want to write that up and put that on my mirror.

Mary Beth: it’s in the, if you want to get the lines out, it’s in the intro.

actually, if you want to connect with me outside of this, I’d be happy. I have these beautiful little cards that I’m happy to send you a copy of it. 

Carolyn: Oh yeah. 

Mary Beth: my, I obviously have it by heart now, 

Carolyn: Yes. 

Mary Beth: stays in the window of my bathroom because if I remind myself that I have permission to be human, then I can authentically give others that permission to be human because most of the time, not at a ten times, it’s me who’s not giving me permission to be human.

Carolyn: It’s so true. Right. Yeah. It’s so true. Oh, that’s awesome. And yes, I would love one of those

Mary Beth: Okay, beautiful. I’ll get it your way.

Carolyn: And then my last question is about. Co regulation and being connected to others. And I like to do that around music. So what is a song or genre of music that really helps you feel connected to something bigger than yourself?

Mary Beth: Yeah, there’s this one song that is my go to song particularly when I’m feeling disconnected, and it’s called In Dreams by Jai Jagadish is her name. And the chorus of the, of the song is know you are loved, rest in peace, dream your sweet dreams, and all can be released. And so there’s this call to action to of like loving yourself, knowing that you are connected to so much more than whatever you’re going through.

There’s this bigger experience and I got to tell you, there’s actually a great story around this. I listened to this song on repeat. I shattered my tailbone and I was living in a bathtub for about three months. that my body would heal on its own. It was the most painful physical three months of my life.

And I did, I waited as long as I could to have the surgery. And I ultimately had to have the surgery, but I listened to this song on repeat. This is a woman who, for anybody in the, you know, into the spiritual music, in the spiritual space, she’s. She’s well, very well known. She’s a, she’s very well known there.

I had just gotten turned on to her music a few months prior to this, but it was my like self soothing that I just listened to on repeat. I’d even like rock myself listening to the song right after I had my surgery. I got an inbox, a message in my inbox that Jai was coming to my local place where I was a teacher in that facility

Carolyn: Wow.

Mary Beth: her brother Was connected to this place and she was doing him a favor.

And so one week after my surgery, I was able to tell her to her face. What this song did for my healing. She wound up singing it in this, maybe there were 30 of us in the room. Like she normally has huge 

Carolyn: I just got shivers.

Mary Beth: Yeah. So, so at the end, she sang it as the last song, as we were going through these different, like Kundalini practices.

And I went up to her in the end and hugged her again. I introduced myself in the beginning and then at the end. And I said, Oh my gosh, did you see me while you were singing? Like I, I was like having this extreme experience. And she said, I sang it to your heart.

Carolyn: Oh, wow. Wow.

Mary Beth: So it’s like so much as possible. Right. And so that was before I was even like aware of things like manifestation and the law of attraction. Literally bathed, like I was in a bathtub, like I

saturated myself in her words, in her music, in her lyrics, and then I got to, we got to hold each other.

Carolyn: Wow. Wow. That’s amazing. And I, I can’t lie, I’m thinking your skin must’ve been like raisin. You must’ve

been like, 

Mary Beth: honestly the entire

Carolyn: up. Oh,

Mary Beth: outer body experience.

I’m so grateful that I was able to hold it together enough to speak to her because I thought I would just be crying the entire time, which, by the way, I’m a huge advocate for crying and not holding your tears back.

I’m not saying that. It’s more that I wanted to be able to express what I wanted to express to her.

And so it was just so powerful and recognizing that so much more is possible than we ever realize. And music is an incredible gateway to that.

Carolyn: It really is it really is. That’s why I love that question so much. Well, Mary Beth I’m so glad that we were able to make this finally work. And, you know, thinking of what our discussion I’m sure we could have had a great discussion last May. When it was originally scheduled for, but I feel like it was just meant to be at this part

of, of the year.

It’s, um, yeah, I’m so, I’m just so grateful you came on the show and wishing you, you know, all the best as we head into the holiday season. And thanks again for coming on the show.

Mary Beth: What a gift to be here. Thank you.

Carolyn: All right, Evolve listeners, thank you as well for tuning in. We are heading into the holiday season, so this is one of the last few episodes in 2023.

But do not worry, we have got lots in store for 2024. Thanks for tuning in, and if you liked what you heard, please rate, review, subscribe, share with a friend. All of your support really means a lot. Thanks again. Have a great day.

 corevaluesquiz. com. That’s where you can start doing this work or refining this work if you haven’t invested time in it lately. I’ll tell you while I shared on the show, redefining or re exploring my values has really been a game changer for me. Those tough days, which frankly seem like almost every day these days I just remind myself, this is what’s important to me.

And so I hope this conversation with Mary Beth gives you some inspiration, gives you some context and some, tangible ways to stay connected, reconnect wherever you’re at with your values journey. But at the end of the day, it’s one of these things, it’s not going to cost you any money and it can have a world of difference, a world of difference.

Really hope you enjoyed this show. Like I mentioned when I had Marybeth on, we are going to be taking a break for the holidays. I think a well deserved break. We all have made it through 2023, hopefully in good health and good spirits. And so, just really celebrating this time to take a break.

So this will be one of the final episodes for 2023, but don’t worry, we are coming back in 2024. If you would like to get in touch with me, you can find all sorts of ways to do that at carolynswara. com. You can find out more about my book and my work there as well. Thanks as always for tuning in. Really appreciate you being here.

Bye for now. 

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