What are your values? What do you value in a career, in a community, in another person? What has value to you? Values… it is a multifaceted word that we hear and read constantly, but a lot of us don’t understand what it truly means. Simply put, values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live your life. They are the beliefs that guide your attitudes and motivate your actions. Values reflect your sense of right and wrong and help you become the person you want to be. They allow you to create the future you want. The decisions you make every day are a reflection of your values.
One of the first exercises I do with my executive coaching clients is to help them identify their values. Here’s a list of values that I use. Creating a list of values provides you with an anchor to keep your focus on your mission and a standard to hold to when making big (and small!) decisions.
I encourage you to do the exercise as well, as follows:
First, rank each value based on what you desire in your life.
Then, rank them again based on where you actually are in your life right now. The closer your life aligns with your values, both personally and professionally, the more content you are. Now, take a look at your list. If you’re not in alignment, where are the gaps, and what can you do to reconnect with your values?
For example, a conversation with your boss can often lead to your responsibilities being more aligned with your values, such as more collaboration, more creative projects, or gaining new knowledge. The same is true for your personal life, except the conversation is with yourself. Let’s assume that one of your core values is service, and at this time, you don’t feel you are honoring that value. Ask yourself, how can you make your commitment to service happen? What organizations are important to you? Where can you carve out space on your schedule to make the time commitment required?
Sometimes when our career or personal situations are not aligned with our values, it is not possible to right the ship. For example, you desire to advance in your career, and perhaps you value advancement, yet your company is not promoting staff, or your boss is unwilling to put you forth for a promotion. Recognize that working without an opportunity for professional mobility puts you in conflict with your values. When this happens — you owe it to yourself to make a change. Sticking with this example, I would encourage you to map out your career options and look for a new opportunity where promotions are an option.
Values are your backbone when framing your best life. We all want to live well, and living in support of our values is how we make that happen.