“Values enable us to fully connect with who we really are”
~ Professor Amy Cuddy
Tricky little things
Personal values are the trickiest of things to try to define. We are exposed to other people’s expectations from birth and then we have to adhere to societal norms to fit in socially and at work.
We might even accidentally adopt someone else’s values as our own. Or we could even have aspirational values that represent who we would like to be, rather than accepting what is actually important to us in this moment.
So it’s a useful exercise to review your values regularly, and check in with yourself to see how they could feature even more in your life.
If you’re interested in identifying yours, or double-checking that they still serve you, read on as I’m going to suggest a few helpful techniques for you to try.
Values are …
Principles that determine how we think, feel and act that enhance our sense of purpose and wellbeing (Seligman, 2011)
Values help you …
…to fully connect with ourselves and trust ourselves, which enables us to build trust with others
…to have the confidence to act based on your own beliefs, attitudes and principles, and to trust that one’s actions will be affective
When you know who you are and what you stand for, you can
- Create healthier relationships
- Trust yourself more
- Make better decisions
- Build resilience to change and stress
Values are already part of your life
You already act in ways aligned to your values. Living according to things that are important to you helps to improve your overall sense of purpose and wellbeing in the world.
Something you value is a reason to get out of bed in the morning; it makes you feel better when you act on it and life can feel good. However, when you’re not engaging in activities that match your values, life can feel a bit empty or meaningless.
Personal Values are different to your Character Strengths
Your character strengths are specific things you do that energise you. They are not skills, or things you happen to be good at. Instead, when you are playing to your strengths, they bring you a sense of wellbeing, a feeling of satisfaction – they are things that you could do again and again.
Discover your personal values
What is really important to you? i.e. connecting with others, fairness and equity etc.? It can time to figure this out, and there are different ways to approach this.
Q. Remember a time when you felt enlivened, uplifted, energised. What were you doing? Who were you with? What was important to you in this situation? e.g. bringing other people together could be the value of ‘community’ or ‘connecting with others’, or it could be that people are coming together for a specific cause.
Q. Write a list of things that are really important to you. Group similar words together (i.e. caring, nurturing, empathy / precision, details, punctuality). Narrow your list down to 3-5 core things that truly add meaning to your life.
Now ask yourself
Q1 a. How do these values feature in your life?
Q1 b. How can these feature more in your life?
Q2 a. How do these values currently feature in your work?
Q2 b. How can these feature more in your work?
- They define the organisational culture, the behaviour and its language. It’s a code that gives people a frame of reference on the way of working
- Values should be role-modelled by organisational leaders
- They must be operational, concrete and measureable: embedded in all aspects of the company (i.e. recruitment to development to reward)
- Not just crafted into positive affirmations that are displayed in the lobby
According to the research, when your personal values are aligned with the organisational values, as an employee, you will have increased job satisfaction.
This in turn increases your sense of wellbeing, engagement, and productivity at work.
Values can boost your resilience
BUT is not always possible to align your personal values with those of the organisation.
Whilst the organisation has a responsibility to meet your basic requirements (fair pay, good management and leadership, good working conditions etc.) it cannot always do this.
For example, when the organisation is going through structural change, leadership change, or meeting unexpected environmental challenges, it cannot always provide these ‘basic’ conditions (such as learning and development, promotion opportunities, or financial offering etc.).
Therefore, your job satisfaction and your resilience to stress is likely to decrease if you don’t feel as though the organisation is meeting your needs.
In these situations, you have to find ways to motivate yourself. Make sure that your values feature somewhere in your life to give you a continued sense of purpose and wellbeing.
I’m happy to help
What are you three core values? What’s the most important thing to you in life? What could you not live without?
How do these currently feature in your life or at work?
Let me know what they are in the comments below, or if you’re getting stuck, I’d happy to try and help.