How Your Values Shape Your Future
Are you taking ownership of your life choices and the direction you took so far or maybe are you blaming your luck and external circumstances?
First of all, I'm not a huge fan of playing the victim when it comes to my success or lack of it. I used to do it and only when I moved away from the limiting belief that I couldn't affect my environment, I regained my power and strength. I regained the possibility to shape my life as I saw it fit.
We all have an inner compass of beliefs and values. When I started as manager, I remember that I was trying to define my leadership style. I kept looking at what I was doing every day, how I reacted to different events, conflicts and challenges but I didn't find much clarity at that point as I was struggling to find the common thread between all them. That is until I started looking at my core values.
Have you done a self-review of your own values? Could you mention some of them without thinking?
Let me clarify what, in general, values are.
Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.
They determine your priorities, and, deep down, they're probably the measures you use to tell if you're happy or not, if your life is how you want it to be.
When the things that you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good, you're satisfied and content. When instead your actions don't align with your personal values, that's when things feel... wrong. This can be a real source of discontent, feeling unsatisfied with your life, out of place or angry even in extreme cases.
This is why you should make a conscious effort to identify your values, it is so important and it will help you moving forward in ways you can't predict yet. I'll give you a spoiler: you will feel on the right path, connected to your goals and the choices you'll be making. No more decision paralysis!
How Values Help You
Values exist, whether you recognize them or not. Life can be much easier when you acknowledge your values and when you make plans and decisions that honour them.
If you value family, but you have to work 70-hour weeks in your job, will you feel internal stress and conflict? And if you don't value competition, and you work in a highly competitive sales environment, are you likely to be satisfied with your job?
In these types of situations, understanding your values can really help. When you know your own values, you can use them to make decisions about how to live your life, and you can answer questions like these:
- What job should I go for?
- Should I accept this promotion?
- Should I start my own business?
- Should I advocate for my decision?
- Should I continue this relationship?
So, take the time to understand the real priorities in your life, and you'll be able to determine the best direction for you and your life goals! I know, I know, easier said than done but it's not as difficult as you may think!
Defining Your Values
When you define your personal values, you discover what's truly important to you. A good way of starting to do this is to look back on your life, to identify when you felt really good and really confident that you were making good choices. Bear in mind that values that were important in the past may not be relevant anymore as we go through life, some of our priorities might shift. For instance, money might be a higher priority when we start working however if we start a family, our new top priority might be our partner or child.
Now take 20 minutes for yourself, get pen and paper (or a Word document) and let's dive in!
Step 1: Identify the times when you were happiest
Find examples from both your career and personal life. This will ensure some balance in your answers.
- What were you doing?
- Were you with other people? Who?
- What other factors contributed to your happiness?
Step 2: Identify the times when you were most proud
Once again, use examples from your career and personal life.
- Why were you proud?
- Did other people share your pride? Who?
- What other factors contributed to your feelings of pride?
Step 3: Identify the times when you were most fulfilled and satisfied
Again, use both work and personal examples.
- What need or desire was fulfilled?
- How and why did the experience give your life meaning?
- What other factors contributed to your feelings of fulfillment?
Step 4: Determine your top values, based on your experiences of happiness, pride, and fulfillment
Why is each experience truly important and memorable? Use the following list of common personal values to help you get started and aim for about 10 top values. (As you work through, you may find that some of these naturally combine. For instance, if you value philanthropy, community, and generosity, you might say that service to others is one of your top values.)
- Inner Harmony
- Intellectual Status
- Making a difference
- Being the best
- Continuous Improvement
- Hard Work
- Helping Society
Step 5: Prioritize your top values
This step is probably the most difficult, because you'll have to look deep inside yourself. It's also the most important step, because, when making a decision, you'll have to choose between solutions that may satisfy different values. This is when you must know which value is more important to you.
- Write down your top values, not in any particular order.
- Look at the first two values and ask yourself, "If I could satisfy only one of these, which would I choose?" It might help to visualize a situation in which you would have to make that choice. For example, if you compare the values of service and stability, imagine that you must decide whether to sell your house and move to another country to do valuable foreign aid work, or keep your house and volunteer to do charity work closer to home.
- Keep working through the list, by comparing each value with each other value, until your list is in the correct order.
Step 6: Reaffirm your values
Check your top-priority values, and make sure that they fit with your life and your vision for yourself.
- Do these values make you feel good about yourself?
- Are you proud of your top three values?
- Would you be comfortable and proud to tell your values to people you respect and admire?
- Do these values represent things you would support, even if your choice isn't popular, and it puts you in the minority?
When you consider your values in decision making, you can be sure to keep your sense of integrity and what you know is right, and approach decisions with confidence and clarity. You'll also know that what you're doing is best for your current and future happiness and satisfaction.
Making value-based choices may not always be easy. However, making a choice that you know is right is a lot less difficult in the long run.
Identifying and understanding your values is a challenging and important exercise. Your personal values are a central part of who you are and who you want to be. By becoming more aware of these important factors in your life, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation.
Some of life's decisions are really about determining what you value most. When many options seem reasonable, it's helpful and comforting to rely on your values and use them as a strong guiding force to point you in the right direction.