Whether choosing a political candidate or a new career, a great way to discern your choice is to tap into your values. What are your core beliefs that structure your decisions?
Think about what matters most to you in the world. Values can be formed through experiences, influential people, family structures and culture, and even difficult times. Common values that changemakers identify include: giving back, creativity, innovation, making a difference, order/control, and equity.
Getting greater clarity on these beliefs can create a scaffolding that weathers the ups and downs of a lifetime. It can keep you focused on a longer-term vision of purpose. Without knowing your values, it is more possible to slip into dismay, disenchantment, aimlessness, and cynicism.
Identifying values is not just stating them but living them. The gap between your work and your vision should feel inspiring and energizing rather than depleting.
Aligning with values also helps to dispel notions of perfection. Values can define a sense of inner standards rather than external judgment. When you feel judged or beaten down, ask yourself how those external judgments align or do not align with your inner values. This mindful work also allows a re-calibration of yourself that can keep critics at bay.
Values may change over time. They might even conflict with some of the expectations of your job, your family, your religion, your politics. Be true to what feels right in your core, not your head. Articulating values and seeing how they align and do not align with your big goals in your life can help you to discern when its time to take the leap and shift to something bigger, more true—how you really want to be.
Resources for Living Your Values
- You can help to distill your values by considering lists of words and debating which ones connect most with you. Here is a list to get you started.
- Ask everyone to tell you about your gifts. Feeling really brave? Post the question on social media—a request for others to list your gifts. Create a visual collage, like a word cloud, of the words shared with you.
- Revisit a rewarding moment of success. Think back to a time when you felt fully alive —a moment in time when you felt a huge energy hit and felt like you were flowing in the stream of success. Use your senses to remember the details of where you were, how your body felt, what the light looked like, who was with you. Then consider—what values/beliefs/principles underlie the meaning of this experience for you?
- Journal about your values:
- How do I define “meaning” in my life?
- What does it feel like when I live my values?
- How do I express my values in my work? my relationships?
- What are signs that I am not living in my values?
- Who can champion me to help me to live my values?