Why you need to know your Values and how to find them
Updated: Oct 30
Imagine living a life when every day brings joy and satisfaction, when your choices and experiences feel deeply righteous and give you that sense of feeling GOOD. This is how it feels to live life according to what you value most.
Values are what makes you YOU. In the moments of joy, it is your values that are being honoured. When your values are betrayed, you feel discomfort or, in extreme cases, rage. It is possible of course to push through the dissonance and keep going absorbing the discomfort. However, like in the fable of a boiling frog, there is a price to pay - at some point, the water will get too hot and, in hindsight, all the time of sitting in the tepid water will feel like a terrible waste of time.
When you know your values, you start to understand your own behaviour, see the trends, discover why certain things demotivate you while others make you have a ball, see what is your life purpose.
Living by your values is deeply fulfilling even when the going gets hard. It was connecting with my values that gave me the courage to make the career leap from lawyer to becoming a coach and helps me through the dips that all entrepreneurs face from time to time. Can you think of something in your life that sometimes was getting very hard to do, but it felt right and fulfilling to push through, like finishing a challenging project or running a marathon?
Values are also a great decision-making tool for when you do not know what to do. And as new parents, we have loads of questions on how to parent best, where to strike a work-life balance. Values help you make an authentic choice. A decision that is aligned with your values feels right even if you change your mind later.
Last but not least, another reason to know your values is that you instil them in your children, often without noticing it. It's good to be aware of what you are passing on :)
I had not thought of my values until I started to train as a coach when my first son was 18 months old. Those were still early parenthood days for me. I actually went into coaching as a self-help tool because since becoming a mum I felt lost in a dark room of questions I struggled to resolve on how to parent, where do I see my career going, where to strike the work-life balance. I was back at work as a private practice lawyer, on a 70% flexible arrangement, for the first time in my life not having a clear picture of the future, and my son's terrible twos were like a cherry on the cake, dramatically expanding my experience of highs and lows.
Reflecting on my values was like switching the lights on. You suddenly see all the furniture and how to get to the door. Within a year of that self-reflection, I made a career leap, moved countries, spent the best year of my life on Reunion Island (which I still need to write a book about), had my second son and started my business. Five years on, I am thrilled about the choices I made. I am happy with my life. Do not get me wrong, career leaps and having further children is not the universal key to a happy life (both are hard work). What is - is knowing what truly matters to you and being honest with yourself on how those values are honoured, compromised or neglected.
I do the values work with all my clients, and they find it enlightening.
Here is an exercise you can do at home to clarify your values.
Answer the following questions:
What upsets or angers you?
What will you not forgive?
What makes you really happy? Think of some peak experiences.
Write down values triggered:
Set a timer to 5 or 10 min.
Write all the words down without filtering.
Boil them down to 5-10 core values:
Circle the words that jump out at you.
Make a list of five-ten values.
Don't worry about finding the exact words. Like in a legal document, the names are not as important as the definition. You can add a short clarifying sentence for each value or cluster words for clarity (e.g. freedom/choice/independence is not the same as freedom/courage/adventure).
Put them in the order of priority, from the most to the least important one.
Rate how you honour each of those values in your life, from 1 to 10 (where 1 means very little and 10 means fully).
See how they show up in your daily life, moments of joy. Apply them the next time you have a challenging situation.
Pin them up or write them somewhere you can see them.
Share them with your partner:
Invite your partner to do this values exercise.
Compare and discuss.
See how they translate into your family values. Family values are different from your personal values, because, well, it needs to be a consensus between you and your partner. I am going to write another article specifically on family values, how to draw them and how to use them.
If you are feeling brave, share them with your colleagues, bosses, mentors, supervisors to celebrate and hone the uniqueness of talents and resources in your workplace, to invite in work that is aligned with your values.
And if you want to discuss your discoveries or go deeper into the values work, get in touch with me to have a complimentary virtual cuppa.