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This week’s topic is one I’ve spoken about at length in many training sessions and with my career coaching clients. Here, I want to give you an overview of what values are and why they are so essential to career success.
What Are Values?
Values are the core of who you are. They are NOT:
- Your job.
- Your bank account.
- Your family.
- Your friends.
- Your religion.
- Your political beliefs.
- Your significant other.
- Your wardrobe, your taste in music, your favorite pastime, etc.
If you strip all of those things away, you’re still YOU. However, these things are all impacted by your values. Your values, whether you realize it or not, play a major role in how you choose to live your life. Your beliefs, affiliations, relationships are all reflections of your values. Your values influence the way you spend your time, your money and your energy.
Values are not inherently good or bad. They simply define what’s important to you as a human being, searching for fulfillment in all areas of your life.
Values are deeply engrained in who we are and most of us feel an incredibly powerful connection with them—so powerful, in fact, that people all over the world since the dawn of time have been willing to die for them. Ask any soldier fighting a war why he or she is willing to risk life and limb, and the response you receive will likely be a testament to the power of values.
Values provide motivation and inspiration. They drive us to act, think, and feel. They are the fabric of who we are and how we live.
It’s no exaggeration to say that understanding your values is one of the most critical components of finding fulfillment in life and in your career.
What Role Do Values Play at Work?
When your life is not aligned with your values, the result is severe discontent. Without exception, every client I have coached who is unhappy with his or her current career situation has been able to pinpoint specific values that were not being honored at work.
Values in the workplace can be honored or dishonored, suppressed or expressed in a number of different ways. There are a variety of factors that influence how well a specific career path compliments your values. The graphic below reflects this.
The Role: This refers to the kind of work you’re doing, the daily activities, routines, and tasks, etc.
The Organization: This refers to the culture of the organization, the mission, the products/services it provides, the way it conducts business, etc.
The People: This refers to the various individuals you interact with through your work—your co-workers, superiors, subordinates, clients, etc.
You: This refers to your ability to act in alignment with your values within the confines of the workplace.
In any given situation, you will likely find ways in which your values align with various aspects of each of these. You will also probably find ways in which they don’t. The better a career path suits you, the better it will align in all of these areas. The more dissatisfied you are with your path, the more misalignment you will find.
Finally, values also provide a wonderful gauge with which to measure the “rightness” of a career decision. They offer a helpful test for action: “If I do this, will I be honoring my values?”
How to Determine Your Values
Values are naturally a part of your daily thoughts, feelings and actions. However, we often have a hard time identifying our own. An easy trick is to look at how a person uses his or her limited resources: time, money and energy. The things to which they dedicate these resources are clear values.
Additionally, you can look at the situations, people or things that cause emotional reactions, whether good or bad. When motivation, inspiration or joy is experienced, a value is in action. When conflict or frustration is felt, a value is being stepped on or dishonored.
Another tool is to look at the high points and low points in life and determine how values were in play. Whenever life provided you with a sense of pride or contribution, you were likely living in tune with your values. Whenever life resulted in a sense of personal disappointment, weakness or regret, you were likely out of step with your values.
Often, you can identify them simply based on your own self-knowledge. For example, my top 5 values are:
- Hard Work
Values tend to shift over time, so I frequently come back to this list and update it.
In my experience, many people struggle to put words to their values. That’s why I’ve developed several exercises to make the process easier. If you’re interested in uncovering your values and really leveraging them to make smart career decisions, to set goals and to achieve even greater heights of success in the workplace, grab a copy of the Build Your Professional Development Plan workbook. This workbook has everything you need to identify your values and use them as you forge the path of your own unique career journey.
Go forth and live your values!