“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” ~Ayn Rand
Have you ever made a decision that just didn’t feel right, but you couldn’t put your finger on why?
Or had those times when it felt like the universe had aligned and everything was in its place.
Often these feelings come about because we are either being true to our values or (often unwittingly) going against them.
Identifying your values helps you make better decisions and better choices.
People often confuse values with ethics or morals; they’re not. Values are what’s important to us, what we ‘value’, and what gives us purpose.
When the things you do match your values life feels good. But when they don’t align that’s when things feel, well, wrong.
Our recent articles have focused on the importance of being YOU online, of having an authentic tone and voice. Part of identifying your brand, and establishing that authentic style, comes from knowing your core values.
In this article I’ll share an exercise with you that will help you identify your values, why they’re important to your brand and offer some guidance on what to do with them once you’ve defined them.
Aren’t Values a Bit of Airy Fairy Nonsense?
Co-working in a barn mainly consisting of male coders and designers I was expecting some level of surprise and possible reluctance when I started talking about values.
It’s rarely something that comes up when you’re writing your business plan and you can run your business without ever considering them. However, knowing your values, being true to them and having them align with your business is a good place to start your journey on the road to happiness nirvana.
I worked with a business coach several years ago when I set up Spotty and we identified my 10 top values. Knowing them has helped me make better decisions and better choices.
My co-workers and I are currently forming a collaborative (exciting times!) and while they’re busy designing and coding the site I’ve been working on our brand values. To ensure the team are fully invested in them, and that they’ll create a positive and effective culture, it’s important that our brand values align with the teams personal values.
- If one of your core values is authenticity, working in an environment where people gossip and back stab may make you feel unhappy.
- Say another is time with your family; an environment where working overtime (in the evenings and at weekends) was expected wouldn’t be a good fit.
- How about if one of your core values was to be treated with respect and dignity, and yet your boss was constantly belittling your work?
My research into values helped me come up with the below exercise so my co-workers could identify their values. I’m sharing it in the hope that it helps you too =)
Exercise – Defining Your Values
Looking at past experiences is a great way of identifying your values. Can you think of a time when it felt like life couldn’t get any better? When everything just felt right?
Grab a piece of paper or open up a word doc and jot down your peak moments. Don’t overthink them, there’s no right or wrong, just put what you feel.
1) Write down a description of the moment
It can be personal or work related, maybe a time you felt proud or fulfilled or happy. Write about what you were doing, who you were with and what elements contributed to the feelings of pride, fulfilment and happiness.
An example of one of my peak moments was finally setting time aside to write and publish my blog articles. Then receiving positive feedback in the comments, hearing what others had taken from the post and having people share them on social media.
2) Jot down what values are identifiable in this particular moment.
The values I identified from my above peak moment were:
- Expression / Creativity – writing the article
- Sharing and being helpful
- Being listened to / valued
3) Expand and elaborate, choose a name that means something to you.
I have a value of expression, for me expanding on this includes; creativity, writing, art, communication and speaking for others.
You may stick with an adjective that sums up your value; or you may want to give a more personal name, what the value represents for you. I have a value of ‘sunshine girl’ which is all about being positive (it’s especially poignant to me as it’s also my middle name).
Repeat the above exercise using different moments to get more values; ideally around 10 but no less than 5 (you may get more than one value out of each exercise).
If you get stuck just ping us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can email you a list of commonly used ‘value’ words to help.
Defining Your Voice and Tone Adjectives
In our ‘Find Your Authentic Online Voice’ article we’ve looked at coming up with adjectives to help define your company’s voice, you may find that these help you describe your values.
For example, as I mentioned, when I worked with my business coach I came up with a list of ten personal values. One of these is ‘Caring’ – Spotty is true to this value in two of the adjectives I use to describe it – friendly & helpful.
Another one of my values is ‘People’ expanded this reads ‘connection, sociable, helping others grow and learn, being a team and collaboration’. This aligns perfectly with Spotty’s aim of teaching people new things and also with the way we work with other companies.
When you define your values, you discover what’s truly important to you.
So I Have My Values, What Do I Do With Them?
Having your values set out helps in any decision making process. Checking the choices you make align with your values gives a sense of integrity, of approaching decisions with confidence and clarity.
Having your values in a list somewhere, either on an actual piece of paper or stored somewhere digitally, enables you to use them when faced with a decision – should you take on that difficult client, should you move your business in a different direction, is the person applying for the job the right fit for the company.
Making value-based choices may not always be easy, but in the long run they pay off. We’ve all had that client we’ve taken on against our better judgement that’s led to sleepless nights, or got distracted by a new direction that doesn’t pan out or taken on that employee that just didn’t gel and had to go through the whole process again six months later.
When faced with a decision go through each of your values and ask yourself:
“On a scale of 1 to 10 how does the potential outcome of this decision or opportunity align with my value?”
The aim is to get an average of 7 or higher, if this isn’t achieved then it may not be the right choice for you or your company.
Over to You
We’d love to hear any examples of when your values and business decisions have or haven’t aligned. Or if you have any other tips for defining your values please share them with us in the comments.