Tune Into Your Compass
Have you wrestled with a decision lately? At some point we all have difficulty making a choice or decision as to which path to follow. When hiking in the woods with unmarked trails we often take a compass along to aid us when we need to make a choice as to which path to follow. What do you use to guide your decision-making when you’re not in the woods?
One compass that we all have available to help us make decisions is our individual set of values. Sure, we’ve all heard about the importance of values in setting goals, however for most of us it’s something we don’t really take the time to examine. According to Richard Leider in his book entitled ”Life Skills”, fewer than 10 people of 100 have really taken the time to identify the values that drive their behavior.
What Are Values?
A value is something that you consistently act on to get or to keep. It is a principle or quality that arouses desire in us. The more consistently and enthusiastically we commit our time and money to something, the more we value it. Glancing through our calendar and checkbook gives us a clue as to what we value. By living our values, one lives a life more “awake” to what it has to offer. We are more likely to be proactive rather than reactive. Clarifying values and committing energy to them means we have a life strategy.
All of us know people who have drifted with the circumstances of their life, accepting less than life can offer and who take no risks to create a proactive approach to life. How long has it been since you took a look at what you want out of life and evaluated how you spend your time? Values reveal who we are and what we believe in. In the workplace you will be much more effective if you are working toward goals which represent your deeply held values.
How Do Values Emerge? How Do We Clarify Them?
Reflection is a good place to start. For many of us this is very tough to do. For every person who gathers the courage to explore their values, there are many more who continue to pursue the “busyness” of daily life, hoping to rely on others to provide the compass.
As part of your reflective experience, answer the following questions:
- Who has had the deepest impact on your life and what value did they impart to you?
- What book or movie has contributed to your values and why?
- Tennyson in Ulysses states “I am part of all I have met”. What experiences have helped shape your life or career?
Values shift as we go through different stages of life. What was once important may now be less so. We live in a dynamic, ever changing world. We know that it is no longer possible to settle into a predictable pattern for a lifetime. Exploring values assists us to become aware of our priorities and, as a consequence, to live in closer harmony with our beliefs. Clarifying our currently held values provides a compass for decision making in life and work. Through understanding our values, it is possible to shape the life we want.
Walking the “Talk”
In the process of clarifying values, a gap may emerge between what we say our values are and how we actually behave. Leider has identified five criteria to determine whether we actually hold a value or not:
- Did you choose it freely? (not forced on you by others)
- Did you choose from alternatives? (explore options)
- Did you give it thoughtful consideration?
- Are you willing to commit to the choice publicly?
- Do you carry out the choice day-to-day?
Work Values—Taking Stock
Answer the question: “Why do I work?” Look honestly at what you need and want. Values play a crucial role in work satisfaction. During times of change, the need to understand work values is even more important. Organizational changes force value decisions and choices are easier when we have clarified values to serve as our compass.
Values help make sense of our world. Every decision you make is based on:
- your values
- the facts of the situation.
Work values are influenced by experiences with other people including peers, reports, managers, family members, teachers and friends, as well as, professional colleagues. These influences can be powerful in shaping our values. Values are not right or wrong, good or bad…they are personal choices. Finding a work environment that is consistent with your personal values is a big step toward finding a rewarding and motivating workplace for you.
So, do yourself a favor and reflect on what values make up your personal “compass.” Don’t get “lost in the woods” when tough decisions need to be made!