By Rhonda Collins, I Start Wondering Columnist
Our life path must align with our values if we are to be content and happy. In my last blog, I discussed the importance of using your values as a guidepost for selecting a career, business, retirement options, place to live and other life choices.
As a reminder, values are the principles, ideas and, to a certain extent, also the material items that are most important to us. If our major life choices are not in alignment with our values, we feel distressed, frustrated and disoriented.
Marc Alan Schelske, author of Discovering Your Core Values, discusses the practice of many companies today that have constructed a values statement or a list of core values to guide their business model. He argues that likewise, we, as individuals, should have our own values statement to guide our decision-making. Otherwise, we are simply following the values of whoever we interact with, whether strangers or loved ones.
“If you don’t get clear about your personal values,” Schelske says, “you will always be living in reaction to the value-based choices of the people around you. Either their values will shape your life, or your reactivity to their choices will. Neither of those is a life-giving, motivating, or dream-building way to live.”
So, how do you know what your values are? Well, you don’t need a series of devastating events, such as I recently experienced and described in my last article, to bring to your attention what your true values are. But you must have some time for reflection.
What follows is an exercise that you can use in your own Personal Values Determination Retreat. Or grab your Bestie and work on it together over a bottle of wine one evening. However you approach it, determining your values will give you a roadmap to your best life choices.
Determining Your Values Exercise
Set aside a couple of hours one day (or 15 minutes a day for a week) to answer the following questions. You don’t need to share your answers with anyone else, so take time to reflect and be completely honest.
- What would cause you enormous grief if it were removed from your life? Consider people, favorite activities, health, lifestyles and your most cherished material items.
- What principles or passions do you consider most important in guiding your life and making it fulfilling? These could be service to others, worshiping your God, being independent, advocating for social justice, being at peace, financial stability, or other ideals that make you proud and content.
- What are your measures of success? These could be money, status, power, respect, a loving family or other indicators.
- Think of two or three recent times when you were very emotional or stressed-out or frustrated. Perhaps it was an argument with a spouse or family member or maybe you heard a story on the news that made you angry. What was it that upset you? For each incident, reflect and determine the specific principle or ideal that you felt was violated.
Specific Work-related Values
- What type of work projects, activities or programs give you the most pride or sense of accomplishment when you complete them well? Have you mostly completed them alone or as part of a team?
- What assignments have you had in the past that you liked the least? Why? Usually the “why” will lead you to an opposite value you hold. (For example, I had a job that required me to reprimand students who weren’t following certain rules. I was upset when the rules were waived for some students whose parents knew my bosses. I realized that “fairness” and “equality” are values I hold dear.)
- Close your eyes and envision your ideal physical work environment. Is it mostly outdoors, inside or a mix? Are windows or plants important? Cool and modern or warm and traditional? Do you share the space with others or have a quiet place alone? Do you need it to be at home or close to home or is a long commute okay?
- Describe your ideal work culture. Do you prefer lots of co-workers who continually interact, exchange ideas and have concern for each other or being left alone to focus on your work without interruption? Flexible schedule? Fun or serious? Have a limited amount of duties that you learn to do extremely well or have a variety of duties that stimulate and challenge you? Do you want a boss that tells you precisely what to do or an opportunity to do things as you see best?
- Think about the industry that suits you best. What do you like to work with most: People or things? Equipment and motors or home décor? Children or adults? Plants and animals or paper and computers? Do you prefer working with your hands or your mind? Are you more into building and repairing or selling and persuading or helping and serving?
After answering each question, try to sum up in a single word or short phrase the specific value reflected in your answers. Some examples are: compassion, saving money for ___, working alone, fighting cancer, forgiveness, spending time with ____ or doing ____, volunteering, helping others grow, integrity, being productive, having variety in my work, doing work that challenges me, fairness, being in charge, and so forth.
Putting It to Work
This exercise can help you determine your values – what’s really important to you. If your current career or one you are considering doesn’t align with your values, consider finding a different career. If a major decision you have made doesn’t align with these values, perhaps it’s time to redirect your path.
If you are considering a career change, but getting a different job is not possible at this time, you don’t have to continue being miserable. Talk to your boss about your top values and see if some adjustments can be made to your current job duties, schedule or salary to allow you to keep your values and your job.
Inspirational author and speaker Regina Brett says, “Choice, not chance, determines our destiny.”
Aligning your values with your life choices will do amazing things for your happiness and health, not to mention your destiny. You will be excited to get up and go to work, feel more accomplished at the end of the day, and move more quickly toward your major life goals.
Sources for this post:
Schelske, Marc Alan. Discovering your Authentic Core Values. Portland, Oregon: Live210 Media. 2012.
Brett, Regina. God is Always Hiring. New York: Grand Central Publishing. 2015.