Why is knowing your values important? If you are one of the lucky few that have never deviated from a path and knew exactly who you wanted to be when you grew up then you can skip over this blog, if you chose to…
If however, you are anything like me then you are possibly rolling your eyes right now or worse still, seriously considering “closing the book” on this one. It’s in the “too hard” basket. Bear with me as this will make clear the unclear and guide you into alignment with yourself.
Shakespeare said it best. “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
The key to discovering your purpose and to unlocking your vision lies in your values. Knowing values will help you make sense of your life. From your values you can align yourself to where you are going. As the old metaphor goes you cannot work out where you are going if you do not first know where you are.
If vision is the “what” of your life, the end game and the map to where you want to end up then values helps you determine what map to choose. If you find yourself being torn in an area of your life it probably comes down to a values clash. Sometimes you find yourself having conflicting values, which is a recipe for pain at worst, and discomfort at best. You could be following the wrong map or someone else’s map; a map you inherited.
Designing your own values map
Designing your own map means examining your values. This can be a nebulous concept so here is an exercise that will help you unlock your values. Look into your past (both personal and professional) and reflect on when you were happiest. What were you doing? Who were you with? What were the factors contributing to making you so happy? Now ask yourself the same questions for times in the past when you were proudest. Lastly, look for when you have been angry or upset. Often when we experience a disagreement we have a values clash or we experience someone “cutting across” our values which is why we get upset in the first place. Again, ask yourself, what were you doing? Who were you with? What contributed to your feeling angry or upset?
I have also included a link to a downloadable list of possible values. This list is far from exhaustive it is simply intended to prompt you. If there is a value that is missing add it in.
Defining your values…
If you have done the thinking you will have a list of words that will give you clues to what you value the most. Look for any underlying themes. Narrow the list down to 5 so it is easy to remember and then define them. Why? Because once you make something distinct it has power and it moves from being a word to a tool, as one of my mentors John Smallwood once taught me. Distinctions make the difference and will serve as a guide post to keep you congruent. Like ballast in a boat they keep you stable. I’ll give you an example. One of our organisational values is Courage. It is also a personal value of mine so it is easy for me to own. There are many definitions of courage and it means many things to many people. To us, Courage means taking action in spite of fear, regardless of the outcome. The way we have defined courage is action based and that is not necessarily the case.
Having defined the value courage, what now?
It now can be utilised as a tool. To do that it must have an action attached to it. It is as simple as asking yourself some questions.
- What actions can I taking regarding my value?
- Where is it missing?
- What difference would it make if I took an action consistent with my value?
Once you’ve done that work keep them front of mind write them out and put them somewhere you can see them otherwise the above exercise will be for nought!
If you are interested in another point of view that explores the link between values, vision and living a meaningful life check out Rick Warren TED talk.