Values are important because, to the extent you are working and living in alignment with your values, you’re likely to be happier, prouder, more satisfied, and more willing to strive for productivity and success than someone whose values contradict their words and deeds.
Whether your values have evolved naturally from your upbringing or you have intentionally selected and cultivated them for personal reasons (or a combination of the two), values are an integral part of who you are, what you care about, and how you should be running your work and your life.
All of this makes it important for you to recognize and follow your values and the directions in which they’re guiding you.
Here are some markers to help you recognize your deepest values and operate in closer alignment with them:
What Makes You Happy?
One of the first results of working and living in alignment with your values is a higher level of happiness. That’s why it’s helpful to think back on the times you were happiest, and remember what you were doing, where you were headed, and how you made your choices.
Those activities, goals, and decision-making methods embodied – at least to some extent – the values you most cared about.
What Makes You Proud?
Your level of pride in what you are saying and doing is another reflection of your values. If you don’t want your mom to know what you’re doing, it probably flies in the face of at least some of what you think is right.
On the other hand, if you want people to know about something you’ve said or done, if you feel it’s something you’d like to do more often, that’s a marker pointing fairly directly toward a deep-seated value you’d do well to identify and follow.
What Most Deeply Satisfies You?
The simple truth is that when you’re feeling satisfied and fulfilled by your words and deeds, you’re almost certainly operating in alignment with your values. On the other hand, when you’re having success but not caring very much about your achievements, you’re probably operating a good distance away from what you value.
This is important because satisfaction and fulfillment tend to keep your motivation burning bright. When you start to fall off this track, you need to be careful because you can inadvertently be headed toward burnout and perhaps even depression.
Past Results Do Matter
We often hear the warning: “past results are no guarantee of future performance.” But this doesn’t apply to your values. In this area, past feelings of happiness, pride, satisfaction and fulfillment most assuredly DO provide an indication of your values, and point toward the best ways to stay in alignment with them.
After reflecting in depth on what you were doing and saying in the past when you felt most happy, proud, and satisfied, you will gain a strong sense of what you most value in your work and your life.
Dig for Values
Obviously, you can try to do more of whatever made you feel good in the past. But after this kind of reflection, you can go deeper. You can begin to think about the values to which these activities and behaviors may point.
As part of this exercise, you can also look at the other side of the equation: the values you reject, and the activities and behaviors you will avoid.
Recognizing your in-depth values has important advantages over just doing more of what you’ve already done in the past, including:
- The ability to obtain secondary benefits from those satisfying activities, because now you know why they feel so satisfying.
- Flexibility to pursue new, better, perhaps more challenging behaviors and activities that will also bring you happiness, pride, and satisfaction.
- Opportunities to help others recognize, appreciate, and perhaps even adopt your values.
- Guidelines to help you further refine, expand, and possibly combine several of your in-depth values to fit better in today’s more complex world and to potentially bring you even more happiness, pride, and satisfaction.
- The potential to more accurately prioritize your values so your choices can better reflect your entire portfolio of values, by this means optimizing the happiness, pride, and satisfaction you derive from working and living in alignment with them.
You may also discover that having a keen sense of what you value, and how to keep your behaviors and choices in close alignment with them, brings its own deep sense of satisfaction. Knowing yourself in this way allows you not only to reaffirm your values from time to time, but to close out every task, project, and goal with the unbeatable feeling that you are making your world – and perhaps the whole world – a better place.
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