The Value of Values 

“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” Roy E. Disney

Your values are the qualities, or principles that you hold dear – what’s important to you in life. And in turn, they have a profound effect on your behaviour and actions.

Values are ultimately what drive us, impassion us or give us comfort. Some examples of people’s values might be family, honesty, money, intellectual stimulation, curiosity – but since they are personal to each of us, every individual’s values will vary.

By building a life and lifestyle around our values, we create one that is satisfying and meaningful to us. However, it is important to recognise that our values are not fixed forever – they change over time, and deepen as we understand ourselves better – they are always shifting, as our priorities and circumstances change. Values can depend on your environment, too – your values at work may not be the same as your values at home. By identifying the values that are most important to us, we can then make value-based choices that move us closer to the lives we want to live.

When was the last time you sat down and identified your values, prioritised them, and considered how closely you are living them?

Doing this is a powerful exercise to help you bring more intention and choicefulness as you show up and move in the direction that aligns with what matters most to you as part of living a purposeful life. Identifying your values helps you to understand what is important to you, what motivates you, what you enjoy, what inspires you and what you’d like more of in your life. It helps you to find your true north, and then take values-led actions in that direction.

“I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values – and follow my own moral compass – then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.” Michelle Obama

Exploring Your values – An Exercise of Value

Here is an exercise to help you to recognise your values.

You may want to start with your values in general (in life) or do this for your leadership or parenting and then repeat for the other important roles in your life. Your values may or may not be the same and there may or may not be values that overlap. There is NO RIGHT FORMULA – only what is true for you!

Below is a list of words that will give you some ideas – but it is not by any means a comprehensive list of values. Please feel free to add in your own…

Part One: What do you value?

Check off/highlight each value that is important to you in the list below. And please add any values that are not listed.

Each of us is unique, so there will be many values missing, and there may be other words that may sum up your values better. So, feel free to amend or add to the words in the list below.

  1. Accomplishment
  2. Accuracy
  3. Acknowledgement
  4. Adventure
  5. Authenticity
  6. Balance
  7. Beauty
  8. Boldness
  9. Calm
  10. Challenge
  11. Collaboration
  12. Community
  13. Compassion
  14. Comradeship
  15. Confidence
  16. Connectedness
  17. Contentment
  18. Contribution
  19. Cooperation
  20. Courage
  21. Creativity
  22. Curiosity
  23. Determination
  24. Directness
  25. Discovery
  26. Ease
  27. Effortlessness
  28. Empowerment
  29. Enthusiasm
  30. Environment
  31. Excellence
  32. Fairness
  33. Flexibility
  34. Focus
  35. Forgiveness
  36. Freedom
  37. Friendship
  38. Fun
  39. Generosity
  40. Gentleness
  41. Growth
  42. Happiness
  43. Harmony
  44. Health
  45. Helpfulness
  46. Honesty
  47. Honour
  48. Humour
  49. Idealism
  50. Independence
  51. Innovation
  52. Integrity
  53. Intuition
  54. Joy
  55. Kindness
  56. Learning
  57. Listening
  58. Love
  59. Loyalty
  60. Optimism
  61. Orderliness
  62. Participation
  63. Partnership
  64. Passion
  65. Patience
  66. Peace
  67. Presence
  68. Productivity
  69. Recognition
  70. Respect
  71. Resourcefulness
  72. Romance
  73. Safety
  74. Self-Esteem
  75. Service
  76. Simplicity
  77. Spaciousness
  78. Spirituality
  79. Spontaneity
  80. Strength
  81. Tact
  82. Thankfulness
  83. Tolerance
  84. Tradition
  85. Trust
  86. Understanding
  87. Unity
  88. Vitality
  89. Wisdom
  90. Other…

Part Two: Which values are most dear to you?

On a piece of paper, write down the values you selected.

Review this list and select the ones that you most associate with, discarding the rest.

Then, from your selection, narrow them down to your five most important values.

Remember, you can do this for each important role or domain in your life (personal, professional, partner, parent, etc).

Part Three: How is your alignment?

How far are you living or acting in accordance with your values?

Looking at your five selected values, on a scale of 1-10, rate to what extent you act in alignment with each of them.

What can you do to improve your alignment and increase your scores?

For example, you may choose one of your key values as integrity and give yourself a score of 8/10 in terms of how you live this value. Your improvement strategy may be to continue to do what you are doing. Another of your values may be honesty which you score of 4/10. Your improvement strategy might be to make a concerted effort to state what I really feel during meetings; communicate my frustrations to my bosses; provide honest and constructive feedback to my colleagues.

The idea is to assess the extent to which you are living in accordance with your values – what matters most to you and identity steps you can take to align if you find yourself off track.

Values and Leadership

When we live and act in alignment with our values, they lead us to live our best lives.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”

Whilst values are important to self-leadership, the importance of using one’s values while leading others was also emphasised by Bill George, a former CEO and professor of leadership: “The best leaders are authentic and true to themselves, their values, and their principles.” He goes on to say: “A leader who is authentic and true to their principles can also inspire and empower others.” And “Anyone who follows their internal compass can become an authentic leader.” 

Values are not just important to you as an individual – they have a profound impact on your life and leadership trajectory and, by extension, on the destiny of your family, organisation and society. Taking the time to get to know, review, and engage with our values on a regular basis allows us to show up with authenticity and provides us with the information we need in order to take value-based actions as we live and lead in all the spaces in our lives.

I hope you enjoy this exercise!

If you’d like to go further, please feel free to download Design The Year You Want – full of great exercises to help you get in touch with what is important to you and your life so you can design with intention the life you want to lead.

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