Make Confident Decisions Using Your Core Values

January 13, 2020

Confession time: Do you check your email immediately after you wake up in the morning? While still lying in bed?

Did you, at the last minute, agree to plan your cousin’s baby shower even though it will drastically alter your plan for the next two weekends?

Were you volun-told to complete an extra assignment at work while rolling your eyes so hard you got an actual headache?

It’s easy to let others’ requests, social media interruptions, family interests, and work obligations determine where you’ll distribute time each day. When we consider the ceaseless list of requests others have of our time, it’s easy to see how their priorities often overshadow our own.

It’s relentless.

As Stephen Covey famously said, “The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

But how?

By looking within.

Making confident decisions can be a matter of choosing better constraints. By limiting options in front of you to only those that align with your values, you’ll get ever closer to ensuring your behavior matches your belief structure and produces the fulfillment you desire.

Let’s Talk Core Values

A core value is a fundamental belief about what exactly is most important in your life. It’s a lifelong practice and guiding principle that forms the foundation of your sense of self and of your purpose. The tricky thing about core values, I’ve found, is most people rarely invest the time to identify them in a deep way. Said more bluntly, they don’t know what their core values even are.

There’s perhaps nothing more powerful you can do to create an exceptional and fulfilling life than to determine your core values, and then let these values inform your decision-making. Common core values include: authenticity, commitment, ethics, growth, integrity, knowledge, love, power, spirituality, wealth.

One of my core values is spirituality, which I define as a connection to collective consciousness. When I fail to honor this core value, it looks like me not making time each day for meditation, working through A Course in Miracles or walks out of doors. I then find myself moving further away from my life’s purpose. I don’t integrate the lessons I’m trying to learn into who I am, or I end up taking actions that are not in alignment with my other core values. Each value builds on and supports the others. I believe this to be true for everyone.

There Are No Right or Wrong Core Values

My role as a coach, consultant, and speaker is to empower individuals to take ownership of every aspect of their lives and unlock their own creative potential. I want people to spend more and more time each day, week, and year so engaged that they lose track of time during an activity because it is so closely aligned with their core values and lives’ mission.

How you live your values—your daily actions—can sometimes be out of alignment with society’s norms or out of alignment with the values of the organization where you work. When that’s the case, problems can arise. So, what do you do when you are feeling “off?”

I have ideas:

1. First, take the time to clearly define your top core values. I do this with my clients using the PEAK Values Cards. Each card details a core value and I ask people to consider whether they use that value to navigate tough decisions. During a multi-step process designed to appeal to their innermost feelings and thoughts, individuals sift and winnow the pile down to just six core values.

These values are often different than the individual predicted.

2. From there, brainstorm 5+ ways you can live your values each day. Write down real, concrete examples of how you can do, be, and have each value more in your life. For example, if one of your core values is authenticity (which happens to be my top core value), you might write down you’d like to customize the clothing you wear each day, share your life’s ups and downs transparently on social media or invest more time having deeper one-to-one conversations.

3. Next, recognize the unhappiness/dis-ease you feel when you’re not doing things related to your core values. Yes, this may be painful, particularly if you find you’re doing a number of things out of alignment. But you cannot make right what you don’t take the time to notice. Conversely, recognize how good you feel and how easy things “flow” when you are doing activities aligned with your values. Again, flow happens when the rest of the world seems to shut off and you’re in a zone. You’d be well served to intentionally create more circumstances of flow.

4. Finally, recognize when people in your life do things not in alignment with your values, you may feel negative emotion toward them. I challenge you to do more here than just notice the trend. Dig deeper. Instead of automatically thinking the issue is the other person’s behavior, see that what others did or said that made you feel upset is simply a violation of your core values. Their behavior is likely in alignment with THEIR values. We should honor others by seeing their choices in context.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you’ll begin to notice areas in your life where you can begin to act with greater core value alignment. For example, when you’re at work and a new opportunity or project is presented to you, ask:

  • How does this align with my personal core values?
  • How much time might it take from my other goals and how might it impact my daily schedule?
  • How might this help achieve my department’s annual goals?
  • How does this align with the organization’s values and long-term plan?

Organizations Need Values-Aligned People

The costs are high when organizations don’t encourage their employees to grow in self-awareness. When employees act out of alignment with their own core values, the effects include poor communication, a lack of clarity and engagement, not executing on the strategic plan, ego-centric behaviors, lower profitability, and other unintended consequences. When organizations do encourage employees to live their values, they’ll see increased engagement, aligned behavior, improved happiness, increased confidence, streamlined and faster decision-making, and better contribution margin.

The key is to link the core values of each individual and the overall values of your organization. To accomplish this, ask your employees to choose two to four of their own core values and then review your organization’s values. Have them find and describe matches or overlaps. Then, if someone on the team is acting out of alignment with their own core values OR the organization's values, you are more empowered to ask, “How does this behavior align with our core values?” When they see the disconnect, they’ll adjust their behavior.

Honoring each employee’s values also improves communication because it leads to the person feeling heard, validated, and accepted. From there, members of an organization are willing to commit more—more time, energy, effort, and creativity.

According to studies cited by McKinsey, when an organization sets forth an initiative of any kind involving change, 70% of the time, the initiative fails. Why? Humans really dislike change. People prefer to do things they've always done. However, by linking any organizational change or initiative to employees’ core values, feelings of safety begin to permeate the workplace. The chances of success increase.

Alignment Between Individual, Group, and Organizational Values Is Everything

If we live and work in alignment with our core values, then we're more likely to lead a life we’re proud of rather than one filled with regret. To quote Stephen Covey again, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

Taking the time to make better, more aligned decisions will change everything for you.

Don’t allow others’ priorities and requests of your time to overshadow your own. It’s time you design the right constraints and schedule your priorities first.

Let’s create the best year of your life (so far) by figuring out your core values. Reach out to schedule a consultation today.

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