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Importance of knowing your Personal Values

In my post last week, I mentioned the topic of Personal Values, something I feel very strongly about. They influence our everyday life, often without us knowing or realising.

So what are Personal Values? In my simple terms, they are the things that fundamentally matter to us and affect our emotions, reactions and overall behaviours. They typically have been influenced by our own upbringing, whether there was a positive experience that stays with you or a negative experience that you don’t want to repeat. These kind of events help to shape us and form the foundation of our values. When I talk about Personal Values in workshops, I refer to them as the window through which you view the world (hence this weeks image). When what you experience is in alignment with your values, everything is clear to you, But when there is misalignment, it’s as if the glass has fogged up or become dirty and you can’t quite see things as you’d like.

I’ve experienced this a few times in my career (as well as personally), where I find myself in a situation that just didn’t feel right, but couldn’t really understand why. It could have been as simple as spending too much time in the office and even though I enjoyed what I was doing, it didn’t feel right. Or being part of a leadership team that had certain siloed behaviours which I thought I had to conform to, but felt uncomfortable. It’s at those times that I reminded myself of my values, which I’ve been clear of for a long time, but needed to bring back to the forefront of my mind. In the two examples above I felt in conflict with my core values of Family and Cooperation. So in the first case it reminded me to find that right work/life balance again (see last weeks post) and in the second it helped me realise that I didn’t need to conform, but rather bring my best me.

Below I’ve included a simple exercise you can go through to bring clarity as to what your values are, but more importantly, what they mean to you. This part is critical as everyone will give a different meaning to the same word. An example is Recognition, which is another one of my core values. For me it means I need to feel that what I do has a recognisable impact. This could be as simple as hearing someone say that they read this post and it made them think. Whereas for others, recognition may be a more tangible thing, such as a promotion, award or pat on the back. Both of them are the right definition, as it’s individual to each person.

Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ‘em all over everything you do – Elvis Presley

Values exercise:

1. Starting with the list of words below, highlight the ten that resonate most with you (if a word doesn’t exist to describe a value you feel strongly about, just add it).

Family happiness Self respect Generosity

Competitiveness Recognition Wisdom

Friendship Advancement Spirituality

Affection Health Loyalty

Cooperation Responsibility Culture

Adventure Fame Inner harmony

Achievement Involvement Order

Wealth Economic security Creativity

Economic serenity Pleasure Gender

Freedom Power Peace

Integrity Personal development Fulfilling employment

2. From that list of ten now select five that you feel strongest about.

3. If you feel the need to, put the five in the order of priority that you feel they are right now. While typically our core values don’t change, their order of importance may as you go through different stages in your life. I would recommend doing this step as I remember how important it was for someone I coached many years ago who knew there values, but didn't appreciate how the priority changed when his first child came along.

4. Finally, for each of the five values, write a short sentence as to what that value means to you and keep it somewhere safe/important so that you can refer back to it when you need to.

If something isn’t feeling right for you, whether personally or professionally, just ask yourself, is there a conflict with my personal values and what can I do about it. Sometimes it might be as simple as taking a different approach which resonates well. Other times it might be as hard as saying this is not right and I need to make a bigger change, which I’ll talk more about next week.

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