Your Vision, Your Values
One of the United States of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once wrote:
“There are three things extremely hard – steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”
Knowing this, it’s quite challenging for many people to think creatively about what career opportunities are not only available to them, but best for them. Before we move forward, ask yourself…
What is my vision of the future for my career?
Put simply, your vision is what you hope to achieve; something you imagine. More often than not, a person’s core values are neglected in some way when they are dissatisfied with their career. The same holds true for one’s personal life.
Despite this, people rarely spend time figuring out exactly what is most important to them and are destined to continually make decisions that are not aligned with their values, making career satisfaction and a vision for the future an ever-elusive prospect.
This happens because people tend to evaluate their next opportunity using a narrow set of factors, such as company perks, benefits, and work tasks, instead of making strategic choices based on what they value most.
I have many clients who first came to me indicating they wanted to transition careers so they could work more with people. In many cases their jobs were very administrative, or task-oriented. In each client, what they needed and what they valued were very different.
For example, one client didn’t just want to work with people, she wanted regular interactions with different people. She wasn’t looking to build close connections with a small team of five people. She loved the thrill of making new acquaintances. In fact, the idea of working with the same group day after day repelled her.
This was not made clear until we dug a little deeper together, but the distinction made all the difference in the world. There are different needs and values underlying the desire to work closely with the same group, versus meeting new people on a daily basis.
Few things can rob your joy like not being true to yourself, or not upholding what you believe. Knowing what you value is the key to unlocking answers that will guide you to ultimate career satisfaction!
Simply put, your values are your judgment of what’s important to you in life; a measure of what ought to be. Because they’re what you deem most important, they set your priorities and are therefore a good measure if your life is moving in the direction you want – one that is aligned to what you value most.
Why are values so important? Your values are the easiest and most direct access point to discovering your identity! It’s less likely you will achieve life and career fulfillment without knowing your identity.
If you’re working in a job where your company is asking you to withhold information, sell things to customers that they don’t need, suppress who you are, or keep silent on your values, you will be continuously drained by the emotional energy required to live a dual life.
Unlike our personality and strengths, we are not born with our values. Values are shaped over our lifetime and are heavily influenced by our experiences, belief systems, the people in our lives and yes, to some extent by our personality.
Many people struggle to know or articulate their values beyond moral beliefs, such as honesty and fairness. Intentionally examining your values is critically important, but it’s an exercise few people actively undertake.
The Values Identification Process
The first step in identifying your values is to think about what’s most important to you. As you do this, it’s important to recognize the difference between an end and a means to an end.
For example, you might say, “My family is most important to me.” Your family is a means to an end. You can value them, but your family is not a value.
To get to a value, ask yourself, “What is it about my family that’s most important to me?”
You might answer, “Spending time together.” Well, spending time is an activity, not a value, so you must then ask, “What does spending time with my family give me?”
The answer might be love and connection with other people. See how that works? The family is a means to an end. The end is love and connection with others.
Allow me to share a personal example to illustrate this point. Knowing my values has allowed me to evaluate personal and professional decisions to ensure I don’t wind up in deeply dissatisfying situations. My current career is the best fit I’ve ever experienced, because my work satisfies my values.
I realized a key aspect about myself early in my career: as long as I was a traditional employee, my strong need for autonomy was likely to be neglected. This led me to acknowledge working for myself was truly a prerequisite to ultimate career satisfaction; therefore, every career decision I made from that point forward was made through the lens of that vision of my future to increase the likelihood of achieving the end goal of being self-employed.
Would you like to discover your values? Download this Values Exercise.
Sometimes you must make a difficult or important decision (e.g. whether to accept a job offer), and because all your values might not be able to be satisfied you need to know what’s most important to you.
Explicitly knowing what you value will improve your track record of making decisions that are right for you. Remember this if you ask for others’ opinions on a decision you will make: their advice might work well for some, but only if they share your values.
When you know what you value and prioritize, it allows you to live a life aligned to those values. When your life aligns to your values, the more fulfilled you become.
Prioritizing Your Values
Once you have your list of values, prioritize them by reflecting on this question:
If I could have all the Value A I want, but I could never have Value B, which would I choose?
You’re likely to have an emotional response when faced with a forced choice. Pay attention to your gut reaction to the question. It’s yielding your answer!
I have a client who worked as a Marketing Manager for eight years. In 2013, she quit her job and has since been working temporary jobs while trying to figure out her next steps.
When I spoke with her and uncovered her abilities and strengths, everything seemed to suggest a strong fit with her last role, so I began to dig a bit deeper and share insights about how she is wired. The light bulb went on for her.
She shared that for the past three years, she was miserable in her role but she didn’t know why. After exploring her values and strengths, two factors emerged: shady ethics in the company’s culture and having to influence those over whom she had no authority. Why should those points bother her? Ethics were important to her because Integrity was her strongest value; she found Influencing without Authority to be draining.
This was a significant breakthrough for my client. She realized she does love marketing, but she also needs to work in an organizational culture and within a structure that doesn’t conflict with her values and preferences.
What’s your most important value? Are you living your life in alignment with that value? If you’re not fulfilled, this is a great starting place to find out why.