Values are the things that you consider to be most important in the way you live and work. They determine your priorities and they’re probably the measure you use to evaluate your life satisfaction. When the things that you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually satisfactory. However, when your behavior isn’t aligned with your core values you may experience anxiety, lack of motivation, irritation, or frustration.
To better understand values I will use the analogy of a computer folder. Each folder represents one of your values. The files in each folder are the beliefs that constitute the value, which vary from person to person and can change, evolve or adjust with time. For example, let’s explore the value of “freedom” in regards to work: some might have the belief that freedom for them is having a flexible work schedule, while for others freedom might mean having autonomy in the execution of projects.
Values generate emotions that drive us to act in a certain way. They act as a compass that keep us in our path and redirect us when we divert. By lining up your schedule and your anchoring/value system you can assess where you are allocating your time. If you commit your time, money, or energy to something that isn’t aligned with your values you will probably feel irritated and frustrated. Instead, when your goal is aligned with your values it will most likely make you feel fulfilled. By clarifying your values, you’ve already done the hard thinking required to discover what’s most important to you at a given moment in your life. This means that when you’re confronted with a similar decisions, you’re able to reduce them to value comparison, and the final decision falls into place more easily.
For example, if you’re offered a job promotion that will shift your weekly work hours from 40 to 60 hours but doubles your salary, should you take it? Consider these two situations:
a) If values like success and achievement are at the top of your list, you’ll probably say yes.
b) If freedom and family are at the top, you’ll likely decline the promotion.
In addition to their easy application on everyday decision-making, studies support the benefits of being aligned with your values. Simon Dolan, the creator of “Coaching with Values”, led a study that looked at many cases of young people who had experienced heart attack somewhat early in their life, without any other preexisting heart or health condition. When studying the reasons behind these heart attacks, he showed that most of the times it was attributed to high stress level due to value misalignment. The work done with these young people who had survived the heart attack showed that the negative emotions that stemmed from being misaligned with their values in one or more areas of their life created negative emotions that were expressed somatically (in the body), in this case stress and consequently heart attacks.
6 steps to discover and align your life with your values:
1.Select 5 values that are most important to you. You can find a list of values from the internet or you can dedicate some time to make a list of values that are important to you. Remember you will have to end up only with 5, so make sure you select those which are most important to you.
2. Define your values: what do they mean to you? Write your own beliefs and interpretations of them.
3. Place them in order of importance from 1 to 5.
4. For each value, evaluate from 0 to 10 how satisfied you are with that particular value. That is, how aligned are you with it?
5. Choose two values to work on, creating an action plan for 3 months that will increase your alignment with those values. Make sure to be specific with your plan: What will you do? How will you do it? Does it involve others? When?
6. Along the course of the next 3 months make sure to follow up so you can make re-adjustments and address any major obstacle that come up.
And, remember, being fully aligned with your values requires commitment but adds more freedom, balance and fulfillment to your life.