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Do You Define Your Values … or … Do Your Values Define You?

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Do Your Values Define You?

The reality is that both statements are accurate! While we discuss, study, and research values regularly, they’re not always top of mind. It’s not only your conscious values operating inside of you that establish the why, how, and what of your life’s journey, but the unconscious ones as well.

Let’s break up a few flawed myths:

Values Are Innate: It’s easy to understand why you might believe this because values seem to be an inborn element of who you are. The truth is, we all enter this world as an empty adorable bundle of joy ready to be filled with what’s judged worthwhile and what isn’t by our parents, culture, friends, and belief system. Everything and everyone around you is shaping your principles—that is unless you first determine what you stand for in this world. You see many are living the values of others and are left wondering why they’re unfulfilled.

If you don’t specifically know what your values are, start answering several questions and then, write the words that come to mind:

  1. When you think about your future, what adjectives most connect with the life you intend to enjoy?
  2. When you experience your most passionate aliveness, what personal qualities are you tapping into? (Those times which feel as though 3-minutes have passed and yet, it’s been a whopping 3-hours!)
  3. When you’re most frustrated, what annoys you? What is it that you’re not able to do?

Document what comes to mind. The words you note offer powerful tips to what should be running your world—especially pay attention to the adjectives that appear on one or more of your lists.

Values Are Lifelong: Often, we believe once named and identified; we hold tight to them forever. Yes, you may live a lifetime with the same values residing close to your heart, yet their priority is sure to shift as you enter each new season of your life. For instance, the family may always remain your value, but now that the kids are gone, your time commitment may concentrate more on philanthropic activities. Regularly checking your value’s pulse is invaluable to an ongoing rewarding life.

Values Work In Sync: Wrong! Conflicting values continually smack against each other though many don’t recognize why they’re feeling so uncomfortable in the midst of it. Your operating principles are designed to fulfill you in a variety of areas, so when they’re painfully colliding take note. Their internal discord is a primary reason for the stress you undergo.

You rarely spend time monitoring what your rules of engagement are and how they interact. Image honesty and integrity, and equality along with continuous personal growth and development are several of your top values. The boss who has a history of hiring and advancing only white males, asks you to assess his or her performance. You, a gifted woman, find it unthinkable to evaluate your boss positively… Stress!

What do you do?

Well, you can choose to blast out the truth or be diplomatic. Whichever option you choose, you’re stomping on one or more of your values ending up feeling guilty for not remaining in integrity with self. Values aren’t situational, and yet, the complexity of life often compels you to choose one over another. That’s the real world!

Now is the time to both recognize and become adept at appreciating values friction as it is occurring.

Let’s tie all these myths into a neat little bow with this three-step exercise.

  1. Challenging Scenario – Look at your values list, and then, think about a work situation where one or more could be battling for supremacy.
  2. Rank Importance – Think through and then, share how you determined which value was most critical in formulating your action. Record the process to cement it in your mind.
  3. Real-Life Test – Consider the outcome achieved. Is there a better decision-making process you can tap into in the future?

Congratulations! Through the exercises you just completed, you’ve figured out your values at a deeper and more profound level. It’s time to stop them from undermining you, and instead, use them to generate the satisfying life you so richly deserve.

Related: The Gift and Curse of Stress

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