Welcome “career ringers”! In an earlier blog (Dread Yearly Planning? …) I touched on 3 reviews you should conduct annually to invest in yourself personally and professionally. In this article, I focus on tools and techniques that you can use to create and evaluate your personal values to serve as the foundation for all of your planning exercises.
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Why are personal values important?
“… As we allow our time to be dictated by others and dilute our focus from the things that we value the most, we can begin to feel less fulfilled and, if left unchecked, even a bit ‘lost’…“
Understanding your own, unique personal values is foundational to all personal and professional planning. Why?
Ever feel like you’re always working on priorities dictated by others and never seem to have time to work on the things that are important to you? Throughout my career I found that, over time, tasks, “emergencies”, and other things would creep into my schedule and direct my focus away from the things that I value most. As we allow our time to be dictated by others and dilute our focus from the things that we value the most, we can begin to feel less fulfilled and, if left unchecked, even a bit “lost”.
Our personal values motivate us to move forward – they’re why we are taking action. Without those drivers, we are less energetic and enthusiastic about moving forward or, in some cases, completely resistant to making progress. The underlying key to “Find Your Why” or other similar motivational books, phrases, videos, and many other media items is gaining an understanding of what is important to you – in short, your personal values.
Writing these personal values down and utilizing them as reference material is a first step to planning direction and then staying on track (or getting back on-track if you stray off the path). You may be saying to yourself “But Ron, ‘personal values’ are like art – ‘I know them when I see them’.” While I understand that there are nuances and situational factors that will play roles in your decisions and behaviors, having a list of 3-5 of your most important values will help as references and reminders when you’re going through any planning exercise.
Having a written reference outlining your personal values can help you navigate your career (and life) much like a compass can help you navigate across the map – it’s a simple tool that can help you plan your path and get you back on the right track if you find yourself a little lost.
How do I create a personal values list?
“…This introspection seems to be overwhelming…”
“But how do I get started? This introspection thing seems to be overwhelming!” you might be thinking. Yes, there are thousands of self-help and career-help books, blog articles, videos, and other materials out there. Below is an outline of a value exercise that I’ve found beneficial personally and in working with team members over the years.
Basic Values Exercise:
- Send in your name and email address in the newsletter section below to receive a more detailed values exercise as a PDF
- Refer to the list of core values provided in the PDF or from one of the many sources on the Internet. If you think of a term that better captures a personal value than one on the published list – add it.
- Choose 10-20 values that most resonate with you. Ask yourself:
What do I value most?
What am I good at?
What do I want for/from others?
What brings me joy? Peace? Excitement?
- Narrow that list down to the 5 highest priority values (in priority order)
- Think about what you learned in developing the list and how could this information be useful today or in the future?
Note that this, and similar variations, are the simplest exercises to develop a personal value plan. There are other systems and methods you can find online for free or payment that will help with the process. I recommend the simple method above to start and you can always build on and explore other methods as you become more comfortable with self-exploration.
How can my personal values list help me when planning?
Create a personal value plan that will offer you insights and that you’ll refer to often.
During the exercise I hope you learned a few things about yourself. Perhaps you thought the exercise was going to be easy but found it difficult to choose between terms. You may have found it challenging to narrow the values list down to a minimal, manageable number. You may have discovered that there are some terms you came up with that were not on the published “values list” (either on the Mindring exercise or another you located through a search) that are more personal and better represent your experience.
The personal values list can be useful as a reference during planning, decision making, or evaluating current or future tasks. A few examples to consider include:
- Use during goal planning. Are all goals aligned with (do they reflect) your personal values?
- Use during daily/weekly planning. How do your planned tasks, meetings, and other commitments align with (support) your personal values?
- Professional assessment. How do personal values align with the behaviors (visible value indicators) of others around you? What is within your circle of control (and influence) in order to work with potential conflict?
- Professional assessment. What values do you notice from your employer? Are there differences between published and demonstrated values? How does this influence your thoughts regarding your work?
- Personal assessment. What values do you notice elsewhere in your life? What changes can you make in yourself to feel more fulfilled?
Keep in mind that it is unrealistic to expect perfect alignment between your personal values and those around you. It’s also important to remember that you only have control over yourself. Even if you have influence over someone and get their agreement on a topic, it does not mean that their core values are aligned with yours.
The personal value list will help you in identifying areas of potential conflict allowing you to think about how you will deal with conflict should it arise. If you find that your values are in constant conflict with those around you it may spark some additional internal reflection which could change your value structure or lead you to find another environment where you experience less conflict.
Addressing a few, anticipated questions…
Before I close, here are a few additional questions I can address…
My personal values are set right? Once I create this list – they won’t change – will they?
Your personal values may change over time. Different experiences and environments may shift your values accordingly. That’s normal and expected as part of personal and professional growth.
OK – so my values may change over time. How often do I need to reassess them?
This will depend on personal preference and you may need to experiment to figure out what works best for you. I recommend personal and professional self-assessment at least once per year. If you plan annually for work or create yearly, personal “resolutions” then evaluation of your personal values is foundational to those efforts. As suggested above, revisiting and referencing the values during daily or weekly planning can be beneficial to keep your values front-of-mind.
I’m still a bit overwhelmed. What other resources are available?
I’ve provided a few additional resources referenced for this article – check out the Resources and Attributions section below. I hope you find them helpful. In addition, establishing core values and using them as a foundation for developing a personal career plan is a part of the career coaching programs I offer. This, personal value based, approach helps you develop a plan you’re truly invested in and increase the odds you’ll remain invested in through completion. If you’re interested in how career coaching can help you reach out to me through this contact Mindring link. In the FREE introductory meeting we can explore how career coaching may help address your specific needs.
Developing a personal value list is foundational to other personal and planning efforts, serving as a compass to provide you with direction (and re-direction if necessary). In addition, the documented list can help you keep your personal values in mind as you are performing routine planning – daily, weekly, etc. This and other thought exercises leading to better self-understanding can be a great investment of time for both your personal and professional development.
Do you have additional thoughts on creating personal values and how you use them? I’d love to hear your thoughts on my recommendations and any tips you’ve found effective (or not effective) on this and other blog posts. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. And sign up for my newsletter below to be notified about upcoming articles and events from Mindring Consulting!
I’m also launching a video program each Monday (Mindring Mondays) that will touch on career related subjects. Look for more information on Mindring Mondays coming soon!
Resources and Attributions
- MasterClass.com – Personal Values Explained: 7 Examples of Personal Values
- Indeed.Com – The Importance of Values (Plus Benefits and Tips)
- Lifehack.org – How to Define Your Personal Values and Live By Them
- Find Your Why by Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker
- University of Edinburgh ed.ac.uk – Reflection Toolkit – Values
- Video – TEDx Talks – YouTube.com – Why Values Matter
- Licensed Images from Envanto