Putting Your Values to Work

Is your life driven by reacting to circumstances and putting out fires, or is it driven by what really matters to you? Do you have a vague sense that there could be more to life or that you could be more excited about what you do?

Every day Bob’s boss asks him to fix another mess, knowing that he will do it well and quickly. He is valued for the service he performs for the company. Yet Bob is miserable and feels lost and unenthusiastic at work. What he really wants to do is the work he was hired to do – write new software programs, work on the edge of innovation, and see that what he creates makes a difference in the efficiency of their customers’ businesses.

Bob is in the situation that many of us find ourselves – a crisis of personal values. Learning, service, and discovery are a few of Bob’s core personal values, those things that he needs to have present in order for his life and work to be satisfying.

Although the work he does of putting out fires for the company is valued, not enough of his core values are being honored for him to feel fulfilled at work.

One way to find more satisfaction for yourself is to rediscover your values and begin to live your life based on what really matters. In a world of continual change, one thing that remains relatively constant is your core values. Values are not morals, ethics or “shoulds”. They are essential for you to be yourself.

When you are true to self, that self is best defined by a clear listing of prioritized values. Values are the essence of who you are, and the building blocks of your personal foundation. They help to reorient you when you get lost.

There are hundreds of values that build the foundation for your life, yet it is important to determine which ones form the core for you. Becoming grounded in your core values increases your authenticity, which in turn simplifies your decision-making processes.

To honor your values means that there is nothing that gets in the way of you living them. Take the example of Mary, a data processor for an insurance company. For years Mary knew her job was unsatisfying, but did not know what to do about it or what wasn’t working.

While working with her coach, she discovered that her top values were adventure, discovery and security. Adventure and discovery are not present in her work at all, but her job does provide her with lots of security.

Her vacations are high points for her and she takes many small trips on weekends.

Mary is also getting training that will allow her to change her career, and she plans to become a travel consultant in the next year. She will start her own business (she loves risk!), taking school groups to exotic locales.

How do you begin to determine your core values? Think of a time when life was wonderful and rich. What made it so enjoyable and satisfying? Which values were present for you at that time?

Or look at a time when life was not going so well or when you were miserable. Which of the values were missing? Both of these questions will help you to determine your core values.

Choose only those values that make life fulfilling for you. Once you have a list of probable core values, apply a test to make sure they are right for you. Ask yourself: “How miserable would my life be if I took this value out of my life?” The degree of your dissatisfaction will tell you if this value is truly important for you.

Having discovered your list of core values, how do you use this list?

Post your values list near your desk and use it in your daily decisions. When you are asked to serve on a committee or take on a project, ask yourself: “How many of my core values will be honored by accepting and how many will be squashed?” You will be able to avoid regret and procrastination if you base your initial decision on your values, choosing only those projects that allow you to honor several of your core values.

When you are working on life or career goals, use your values list to help you make the choices. Families can use their individual lists or create a list of values for the family, both of which will assist in the decision making process.

Use your list of core values as a guide to learning and movement. If you sense that you are not honoring one of your top values, ask: “What change can you make to honor it more fully?” What small action can you take each day that will have you honor that value more fully? When you sense you are not honoring a core value, you have a guide for where to go next.

Written by Virginia Kellogg

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