Do you know yours?
Are you living a life that is aligned with your values? Sometimes you may feel that something is a bit “off” – a job that just doesn’t feel right, a person that makes you feel nervous or ill at ease – but you’re not sure why. Often, this is because they are challenging your Values. Perhaps not enough to wake you up and start fighting for them, but enough for you to feel uncomfortable.
If you are thinking that now is the time to look into a new career path that seems more “you”, then thinking about your values could be a really useful exercise.
The problem is that it’s so easy to go through life without even thinking about our true values. What makes it even more complicated is that our values may change. The values you have as a parent are not going to be the same as those you had pre children.
Consequently, I recommend doing the following exercise on a regular basis, say every couple of years.
The Values Exercise
Take a notebook or a sheet of paper and think about the things that are really important in your life. Not possessions or people, but concepts. I’ve put together a list at the end of this article, just to get you thinking, but this isn’t exhaustive. You can put your own in here if something comes to mind.
I’d like you to write down twenty that resonate with you. If you can’t reach 20 that’s fine, but if you have more than 20, I want you to get that number down to 20. Some words may mean very similar things: bravery and fearlessness for instance. Choose the one that resonates most with you. If you’re not quite sure on the definition of a word, but you feel it applies, just go with what that word means to you.
Interpreting the Data
Once you’ve got your 20 top values I’d like you to half those and pick the ten that resonate the most. Here’s a list I put together that describe where I am today.
Health, Family, Growth, Freedom, Peace, Creativity, Learning, Fun, Connection, Clarity.
I’ve done this often enough that they are actually in order, my current top value at the start of the list. I’d like you to do the same too, ordering your values so that you can see which ones matter more.
I’d like you to look upon your values on a regular basis so copy them out and out them somewhere you will see them: on the wall next to your desk, in your diary, on your fridge…whatever works for you!
Think back over your life to jobs that you’ve loved and jobs you’ve hated. How do they stack up against your values? Did the job you hated stifle your creativity while the jobs you loved let it have free reign. How about people? Does someone irritate you because their emails and other forms of communication lack clarity? Do you always clash with your teenage son because he doesn’t want to spend enough time, in your eyes, with his family?
Everyone else has different values so it’s almost impossible to have completely aligned values, but it can be useful to remember that we are all operating from our values and what’s important to you may be meaningless for someone else.
If you’re not living your values, the question is, why not? Is there just not the possibility at the moment? Or perhaps this is something you need to fight for? If your last job had a very rigid structure to the day and a boss who was a bit of a micromanager, and your top three values include freedom, then this could be a valuable lesson in the sort of working environment you want next.
As I’m self-employed I have literally set up my life to represent my values even though I didn’t know it at the time. I work from home to I get to see my family. My work is very creative and I am constantly learning.
How to use your values
Quite frankly, they can now become a road map for future decisions. Thinking of working for a particular company? Check their company values or mission statement and see if it overlaps with your own (or at least doesn’t contradict it). Fancy moving to a career with more meaning? The values will guide you to where to look for that meaning.
I have had clients who literally have started crying when they realise one of their top values doesn’t figure anywhere in their work or sometimes even life. It sounds unbelievable but actually it’s very common.
Health, Family, Growth, Freedom, Peacefulness, Creativity, Learning, Fun, Connection, Clarity, Trust, Bravery, Neatness, Simplicity, Adventure, Independence, Challenge, Love, Fame, Tradition, Fearlessness, Service, Discovery, Daring, Spontaneity, Order, Hope, Diplomacy, Originality, Precision, Determination, Flexibility, Consistency, Polish, Excitement, Generosity, Endurance, Calmness, Empathy, Mastery, Beauty, Curiosity, Abundance, Variety, Accomplishment, Wisdom, Warmth, Expression, Attractiveness, Excellence, Uniqueness, Energy, Enthusiasm, Dignity, Education, Being the Best, Intelligence, Completion, Significance, Discipline, Composure, Availability, Recognition, Contribution, Vision, Diligence, Co-operation, Leadership, Affluence, Fun, Harmony.
Accuracy, Drama, Credibility, Experience, Dependability, Expertise, Altruism, Action, Activeness, Helpfulness, Charity, Support, Diversity, Justice, Duty, Popularity, Balance, Calm, Acknowledgement, Intuition, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Achievement, Congruency, Clarity, Control, Decisiveness, Pragmatism, Drive, Adaptability, Growth, Freedom, Choice, Assertiveness, Comfort, Cosy, Belonging, Family, Imagination, Creativity, Teamwork, Time with others.
Paula Gardner is a career psychologist and coach and the founder of The Redundancy Recovery Hub. Author of The Career Pause and Pivot, Paula regularly coaches clients around moving forwards after redundancy. Having changed career mid-life, and previously ran her own PR and marketing agency, Paula’s USP is her real life experience as well as psychology and coaching know how.
Look out for Paula’s psychology based tutorials, or book a one to one at members’ rate here.