If you understand your values, you can firmly answer the question, “How can I better meet my needs in my next job?” instead of only wondering, “What will my next job look like?”

Being able to live your values at work is essential for your joy, satisfaction, and engagement with your work.

Have you ever thought about what actually guides the process behind making choices that you do? Why you sometimes feel good about your life and occasionally empty or frustrated?

Your boss is also your good friend. You strongly disagree about essential decisions related to business. Will you sacrifice your friendship’s interests or the company’s interests?

You just got a raise. Will you start making savings for retirement or make your life more comfortable now?

You have to stay at work late in the afternoon as you have planned to work on an important project for your promotion, but your child has had a tough day, and your attention would mean a lot to him. Will you prioritize work or family?

Almost every day, you face different situations that require to make choices, from small to big ones, from easy to difficult ones. There are various factors that impact your decision, but the very critical one might be your values, especially your non-negotiable values or core values.

Therefore, get to know what your values at work are?

What are values?

Values are what you consider from your heart to be most important as it leads you toward your true desires.

Your values:

‣ are the lenses through which you view yourself and the world around you

‣ tell you what kind of person you are or want to be

‣ provide you guidelines, or even imperatives, for your choices and actions

‣ encompass your foundational beliefs.

Values are feelings and beliefs that operate in the background of your mind and influence your behavior. And they are developing and evolving through your life experiences.

Are you spending most of your evenings with your friends, or at home learning something new? Or, are you checking and answering all your emails, or do you take time to have small talk to your significant ones?

The absolute deepest values you have are your non-negotiable values or core values.

They are at the root of all other values. Most of your choices in your life are guided and made according to your core values. Everything else in your life comes second to them.

The core values are the basic elements of how you go about your career and your personal life.

For example, if your core value is freedom, all your personal and professional choices will be made in alignment where you are able to experience freedom; you have always been working in a company with flexible working hours, or you worked hard to get you to a managerial position where you have more space for making your own decisions about your daily work, or you avoid structured and beforehand planned vacations, or you might always be late for meetings, and you don’t even feel too bad about it…

Values are subtle and implicit; you may not be consciously aware of them until they are questioned or threatened.

Let’s say that you genuinely value connectedness or compassion. You may not have been consciously aware of this value until you realized that the leadership style in your organization is very much based on promoting competitiveness among employees.

Or you deeply value growth, but there is no right opportunity for your professional and personal growth in your company. Even though everything else, such as relationships, working hours, benefits, meets your needs, you feel bored, empty, unfulfilled, and wonder why you spend so much time on your work instead of doing things that matter to you as well?

Once you acknowledge that your values are tested in your organization, it’s difficult to hide from your inner feelings and emotions, which are coming from this dissonance. You may experience a lot of tension, frustrations, and anger, which only leads to severe stress.

Why is it important to acknowledge your values?

The two principal reasons are:

To live life on your own terms.

To make difficult decisions easier.

If you know your values and live in alignment with these values, you are able to prioritize your daily decisions according to your values.

You will often find yourself choosing not between one bad thing and one good thing, but between two good things (or between two no so good things). When you define what you value, decision making will become more comfortable and lighter.

Life will seem much simpler because you will know clearly what decisions to make in your life.

Contrary, if we don’t honor our values, then our mental, emotional, and physical state is at stake, and we are often unaware of the source of emotional discomfort.

We focus on our society, culture, and media values.

Sometimes after you do something, you might get the feeling that something is just wrong; however, you don’t know precisely what, and therefore you don’t know what to do about it. You may feel sad, overwhelmed, unfulfilled, frustrated, or under pressure. It can start to feel like you are stuck in perpetual angst.

For example, even though you already have a decent career, everyone around you and yourself as well expects you to consider making significant steps for your further career development. But you simply can’t find the right motivation for the right actions. Whenever you are supposed to sacrifice your time and energy on some important task, you instead spend your time on the phone talking with your friend, or you prefer to go jogging. And then, when you go to bed, you feel guilty about how you have spent the day. There could be different reasons for your procrastination but consider what if the reason for your (no)actions are your values.

Your core value might be a comfort, but you were brought up in a society where you were thought that constant growth or development is essential for having a successful life. Maybe you have fallen into the loop of social expectations – you might get caught up in what you think your values “should” be or what other people decided you should value. You think you should practice growth in your career and, therefore, choices that give you only comfort and pleasure leave you with a sense that you are doing something wrong.

Society tells us which values are more acceptable than others.

Most of us don’t know our true values. We don’t understand what’s most important to us. Instead, we focus on our society, culture, and media values.

Usually, we don’t question our values and where they came from. We adopt and foster values, beliefs, and so-called ‘truths’ belonging to others: our family, schools, cultural norms, media, working environment, anything that has helped shape our “truth” and growth, either consciously or subconsciously. You may have a desire for writing, but you chose to study the business and administration instead simply because it is supposed to be better for your life.

It is only natural that as a social being, we follow significant others’ values, which we rarely question. But therefore, we are not able to distinguish what really matters to us. This annulment of our values (and subsequent true priorities) is what caused us to get out of touch with our actual values. At this point, you need to purify your life.

Start discovering your values

Without undergoing a discovery process, it’s challenging to identify your personal core values. Usually, we speculate and idealize what we do or should value — but knowing and accepting what you genuinely value takes your deliberative intention and effort.

If you don’t want to stay just at speculating about your values, you can choose among different approaches for identifying them.

You can use some of the long lists of values from the internet and then narrow it down to your 5 – 10 values, or you can even find some free assessment on values (for example https://www.valuescentre.com/tools-assessments/pva/).

Or, you can choose a more in-depth approach, which is best to do with a qualified coach.

Where you can begin today, is by being mindful of your choices. You can start a discovery process by undergoing your daily emotions and feelings, which occur during the day.

Start paying your attention to both the sweetest and most painful moments of your life. Strong emotions are very often connected to our values. The situation we are in, where we are distraught, is essentially threatening one of our core values. It’s the same with positive emotions. So, use those times when you get triggered (positively or negatively) to think about what values guide your emotions and feelings.

These moments could direct you to what you care about most. For instance, if you had learned a new skill at work and felt very energized because of that, consider that “growth” or “learning” might be your significant value. Also, consider the most painful experiences. If you quickly notice or sense the pain of being excluded by others, you might realize that “compassion” is one of your primary values.

After observing your daily emotions and feelings in different situations for some time, try to see if there are any patterns behind these stories and write them down.

Stretching your values to their highest potential

You do not need to have it all perfect – your values are evolving with you, but it is important that you start to acknowledge them.

To go for the best, let yourself dream a bit and stretch your values to their highest potential.

Write down your most important values, and then consider how you would ideally live those values in your life and your career. Think about how it would translate into your external world (workplace, home, etc.).

Try to be as tangible as possible and keep positive. By this, we mean to make a list of what you want (not of things you want to avoid)!

Ex: Value: “freedom” – It could reflect as such: “Time flexibility in the work I do. Working on my own projects. Choosing the type of clients I work with…”

How do I know if I’m living my core values?

There is a big difference between what we claim to be our value and what we are actually doing and demonstrating.

Not honoring our claimed values is strangely not rare. Although values hold something that most matter to us, paradoxically, the reality is that quite often we don’t structure our life around values that we perceive and claim them to be most important for us.

For example, a successful manager may claim that his family means most to him, yet almost every day he arrives home just before bad time or when he is at home, spends most of his time with his cell phone in his hands or behind computer replying emails.

Ideally, we could design a life where we can make space for all our various values. We could engage in one value without taking away from another value. But in reality, values are all about clarifying our prioritization. They influence what we decide to do and not to do.

When you find yourself at the crossroad, ask yourself, “If I could only satisfy one of these values, which one would I choose?”

The real evidence of our true values is our actions. Ultimately and utterly, we give our time and energy to the things that we actually value.

Typically, we make these choices consciously, but many times we make them subconsciously. The problem is that we often prioritize what provides short-term satisfaction or safety as opposed to what provides the long-term substantial personal fulfillment.

Start being mindful of your behavior, the choices, and the decisions you make.

For at least several days, consciously put a label on the values behind your observed behavior, key choices, and decisions at work and home. 

Pay particular attention to whether the values you have chosen are reflected in your work and in your daily life. 

What values are you expressing or living by as you go through your day? Are there any patterns? 

What can you learn about what you want, what you are willing to give up, and what is non-negotiable in your career and life? 

Are there any people with whom you have a difficult time living this value? (For example, maybe a particular coworker, your superior, your partner, parent, sibling, or friend?)

Are there any situations that make it difficult for you to practice this value?

Where are you, or what are you doing when you fail to practice these values? (For example, maybe you’re at work, at home, out at a bar, on social media, in the car.)

Is there anything else that makes it difficult for you to live your values? (For example, maybe you live your values in the morning but not at night, when you are in your hometown but not on vacation, or working days but not on weekends.)

Try to identify the external events, people, situations that trigger you to veer away from living your core values. 

The process of discovering the top values you wish to live your life is a journey, not a destination.

As your life circumstances change, so will your values. Values will also shift over time as your life changes, and as you fulfill your various goals — for example, what makes sense to you as a single person no longer makes sense when you are married or have children. Or once you achieve a significant degree of “accomplishments,” that value may recede into the background, and other values may take its place, it might be “serenity,” or “contribution,” or “kindness.”

Many themes remain the same across the years, to be sure, but not all of them do. So, it would be best if you let your values change and let your life change accordingly.

Discovering your values is, therefore, an ongoing exploration that will become clearer as you become the observer of whether you are living your life in or out of alignment with your values.

Most of all, if you understand your values, you can firmly answer the question, “How can I better meet my talents and needs in my next job?” instead of only wondering, “How should my next job look like?”

Once you acknowledge your core values and start living your everyday life in alignment with them, you will be able to begin creating your career and life in such a way that brings peace within and a joyful and fulfilled sentiment.

Knowing your values and living by them is the difference between just going through the motions of life and really living.