When we make decisions, we’re choosing what we believe will bring the best outcome. However, it’s easy to get caught up in your emotions or get distracted. It’s also easy to make spontaneous decisions, meaning you aren’t living a life that’s deliberate. To make the best choices, you need to identify your “black sheep values” and let them be your guide, says Brant Menswar, author of Black Sheep: Unleash the Extraordinary, Awe-Inspiring, Undiscovered You.
“A black sheep is 100% authentically original,” he says. “It cannot be influenced, changed or molded into something it isn’t by outside forces. Your ‘black sheep values’ are your five non-negotiables. Understand the core values that make you who you are can empower your life. . . . You can balance the tug-of-war between your emotions and your black sheep values so that you make good decisions.”
Menswar says he discovered his black sheep values after making the single worst decision he’s made in his life. In 2012, his son Theo, was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. After receiving a bone marrow transplant, Theo developed the most serious form of graft versus host disease, which is where the marrow that’s inserted into the body doesn’t recognize the environment and it begins to attack the organs. The treatment is suppressing the immune system, but Theo also contracted a deadly fungus, and the two conditions had opposite treatments.
Doctors told Menswar and his family that Theo probably wasn’t going to make it through the night. “I did what the doctors told me to do, which was I grabbed my wife’s hand, got his younger brother, and sat on the edge of the bed [to] try to find the words to say goodbye,” he says. “It’s a horrible, horrible thing to go through.”
That night, Menswar’s brother created a YouTube video asking for help. The video was shared more than 500,000 times. Doctors from around the world called, including a Houston physician who knew how to treat the Theo’s conditions. In 24 hours, the family went from Say your goodbyes,’ to ‘We actually think we have a solution.'”
“What I realized was I didn’t have the things that mattered most to me defined,” says Menswar. “I did not have those deeply held personal core values defined that would have helped me choose the words that I used when I spoke to him. I let my emotions drive the bus. When you’re in the biggest storm of your life, finding and holding your black sheep values can help you make the right choices regardless of the outcome, so you don’t look back and question your decision.”
Find your sheep
Menswar lists 125 commonly held personal core values on his website findyourblacksheep.com, such as empathy, faith, success, and connection. He suggests going through the list and circling the words that resonate with you.
“The average person selects 30 words as things that are important,” he says. “It’s a pretty precarious scenario, and there’s no way you can honor 30 values on a daily basis.”
Go back through your list, grouping the words by likeness. For example, “empathy” and “sympathy” can go in one box, and “success” and “achievement” in another. Once you’ve got a subset of five boxes of words that are similar, pick the word from each box that you can’t live without. This is your initial flock of five black sheep values.
Once you have your list you have to prove they’re yours. Track your daily actions and look for evidence that they are a part of your life. “Within a couple of weeks, they should show up organically,” says Menswar. “Most people will have two or three that show up every day.”
If one of your sheep doesn’t show up, it could be that it’s an aspirational value. These are the values you think you should have, but that don’t represent who you are in the present.
You may also be tending to someone else’s sheep. This is especially true if you’re caring for siblings or elderly grandparents or parents. “Their values and who they want or need you to be can drive your choices,” says Menswar. “It’s easy to succumb to this, but it’s important to feed your sheep first before you feed anyone else’s.”
Take care of them
Once you identify your black sheep values, you have to take care of them and program them into your day. Pull out your calendar and look at your appointments. Determine which ones need to show up to make sure you’re getting maximum impact. And use them in your decision making.
“The only way is to be deliberate about what you want in life is to identify and care for your black sheep values,” says Menswar. “By knowing your sheep, you can take control of your life and make the decision to choose on purpose. If I don’t do that, I’m winging it, and I’m never going to be as successful as possible if I’m winging it.”