The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it. ~ Carl Jung
Whether you are a coach, a parent, a CEO, an entrepreneur, or a young person searching for direction; getting clear on what matters most will help you thrive.
Values are the reason we wake up in the morning. It’s why we work, why we play, and what we dream about. Our core values contain the most important words in our lives. In the end, these are the words we want to be remembered by. They are why we do what we do and they provide direction for every major decision we make.
According to The Leadership Challenge, our values are our voice. If we don’t know our voice, neither will anyone else and we lose credibility. Our identity will be wobbly. We won’t know what to stand for in life and when times are difficult, we will lose our way.
There are 5 Life-Changing reasons you should know your values:
#1. If you don’t know your values, purpose will elude you
In his book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek popularized the idea that people don’t care about what you do, they care about why you do it. I take that a step further and say, “You don’t care about what you do, you care about why you do it.”
It’s not the job that motivates us. It’s not even the money. It’s why we are doing it. Knowing personal values brings meaning and significance to who we are. It clarifies our core purpose in what we are doing with our lives.
For example, if you believe in and value “equality” you will hear an alarm go off when someone makes fun of someone else or treats them poorly. Why? Because their behavior has stepped over the line of something you strongly believe in. When you are clear on this value, you now know why you must speak up. It isn’t random. Values strengthen your backbone.
#2 If you don’t know your values, you don’t know how to make top decisions.
Here is a proven leadership principle: “Every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to another.” The sad fact is that because most people aren’t clear about what is most important to them, they often say yes to the wrong things.
There is an important study by researcher David Creswell who discovered that college students experiencing high stress were better at reducing stress and solving problems while under time pressure if they wrote down a sentence or two about their most important values. When students were clear about their values, they were able to make better decisions, but it also proved to be a protective factor against the harmful effects of excessive stress. We can all benefit from less stress!
#3 Living your values creates a values-driven life. You get what you invest in.
Values are used as a tool that helps us navigate life. If we are consistently thinking about our values and how to live into them more – we will create a values driven live. But for many people that doesn’t happen. I was one of those people. I had a vague sense but I was scattered and unclear.
A number of years ago as a CEO of an international non-profit organization I found myself in a place of stress, anxiety and frankly not enjoying the work I use to be so passionate about. What had happened to me?
Without realizing it, my work was creating a values collision.
You see, I was traveling 200 days a year and I was violating a core value. A value I knew I had but I unwittingly put on the back-burner. This was unsustainable.
The anxiety caught up with me big time.
FAMILY is one of my core values and I was violating that value as I was out ‘saving the world’. I was doing really good and important work but mostly ignoring the needs of my family. That’s hard to admit but it is true.
Becoming clear about my values also helped me to create alignment and integrity in my life. It helped me to close the gap between who I said I wanted to be, (the image I projected to the world) and who I really am.
I imperfectly but faithfully made the necessary changes to focus on the most important things, and my life has been filled with more peace, meaning and significance.
#4 Values create resilience so you have the willpower to follow through on your goals.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after adversity. When times are hard, or when people experience failure, the higher their level of resilience, the faster they are able to recover. In the middle of COVID-19, leaders who are more resilient will get back on their feet faster and create more success than those who are less resilient. Our values help cultivate resilience because we are clear about what matters.
What research has shown is that when we are consciously connected with our most important, heartfelt values, it can be a buffer from psychological stress. Conscious awareness of our values can keep our brain from producing overwhelming amounts of cortisol – the stress hormone that keeps us from being able to think clearly.
#5 Clarifying Values helps you create a VISION that changes the direction of your life.
According to Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, less than 3% of executive leaders spend their time focusing on vision. I have coached thousands of leaders around the world and all of them would agree that having a vision for their life is one of the most important things you will ever create.
Yet almost NONE of them can produce a personal vision.
Vision gives clarity for where you are going in the future and this helps you know what to focus on in the present. It helps us know what REALLY matters.
Values tell us why we care about vision in the first place. However, lack of vision keeps us living a life filled with busyness, but not fulfillment and prevents us from achieving meaningful success and significance.
“Personally, I have learned that if you create a vision for yourself and stick with it, you can make amazing things happen in your life. My experience is that once you have done the work to create the clear vision, it is the discipline and effort to maintain that vision that can make it all come true. The two go hand in hand. The moment you’ve created that vision, you’re on your way, but it’s the diligence with which you stick to that vision that allows you to get there.”
Knowing and living our personal values is a game changer. It helps us hold our heads high and walk through life with confidence knowing who we and this clarity directs our goals and visions. The clear understanding of our values sets us free from aimlessness and empowers us to live the kind of life we are uniquely meant to live and in turn, fulfill our purpose.