If I asked you what your top 5 values are, would you be able to answer? Perhaps not. And that is just fine, because it is much more useful knowing why you would want to know them. 

Our values act as guiding lights, illuminating the principles, ideals, and beliefs that matter most to us. They affect how we act and react to situations in our lives.

In other words, our values drive our behaviour. 

If our values are disregarded or compromised, we can feel frustration, disappointment, betrayal, or anger.

Consider a scenario where you value integrity as a professional, but you are being pressured by your superiors to engage in unethical practices. Not only would you feel uncomfortable, this inner conflict can cause high levels of stress and with time decreased motivation and depression as you lose contact with what you value most. 

When we are with people that have similar values we feel happier, because we can be more of the person we aspire to be.

Think of those working environments and the personal and professional relationships where you feel you can excel and grow as a person. It is highly likely the people, the company, team or community share many of the values that you have.

The Role of Values in Decision-Making

Person weighing up different values

As values are at the core of our identity, shaping our attitudes, behaviours, and choices, it makes sense to know what they are. Whether consciously acknowledged or subconsciously embraced, our values are integral to our decision-making process. If we can be more aware of what is triggering the emotions we feel, we can make more informed choices as Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Asana describes:

“By stopping regularly to look inward and become aware of my mental state, I stay connected to the source of my actions and thoughts and can guide them with considerably more intention.” 

One of your values may be environmental sustainability. In your daily life you are likely to be choosing eco-friendly products and supporting initiatives that protect the environment. Discovering new ways to reduce your carbon footprint will give you a profound sense of purpose and satisfaction because you are living in accordance with your deeply held values. Conversely, you will likely feel disappointment and anger when discovering a company, whose products you buy, is being accused of greenwashing. 

It can be confusing for us, if we are not consciously aware which standards of behaviour we value most. We get triggered and react to things happening in our lives without having the opportunity to understand more fully where these negative emotions are coming from.

When we know which values guide our choices, we may discover different courses of action, which we may otherwise have missed.

Loyalty may be one of your top values. You discover a friend has been speaking negatively about you behind your back, leaving you feeling betrayed. Knowing that loyalty is important to you may lead you to having a conversation with your friend specifically about this. It may also help you decide if this is the right friendship for you. Sometimes it is better for us to move on.

Photo showing examples of values and asking which top 5 values are yours.

Values help you understand what you are likely to prioritise, what will motivate you and how you will interact with others. It is also important to note they can change over the years. Check in once in a while to re-identify what values are currently driving you.

Identify Your Values

Grab yourself a cup of tea (says the Brit in me), or other favourite beverage, and do either one or both of the following exercises to help you work out what your values are.

Exercise 1: Identify the Top 5

Download this PDF listing 100 values and follow the instructions on how to get down to your top 5.

Exercise 2: Uncover your values with these questions

It is hard to see yourself and your values clearly. This exercise starts by looking at what you admire and dislike in other people. Get a pen and paper or digital note-taking tool and answer the following:

  1. Think of people you know, or characters from films or books. What do you admire about them? Think about what they do, what they say and how they behave. Do they have life philosophies that you identify with? The way Michael Jordan describes his career suggests that perseverance is bly one of his top values:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I failed over and over and over again in my life and that’s why I succeed.”

  1. Think of people and characters that trigger you negatively in some way. What things do they do or say that you dislike? E.g. They are constantly lying. This annoys you because you value honesty. They are messy and disorganised. You get irritaed by this because you value structure and order.
  2. In an ideal world, how would you like people to behave?
  3. Now we have warmed you up, let’s turn to you. What are you most proud of achieving? What were the beliefs and principles driving you to get this done?

Put these two exercises in your Personal Leadership Toolbox, so you can use them again and again and follow how your values change over time. 

Photo showing a signpost with the words mission, vision and values and asking the question: Are your values aligned with your vision?

I do these exercises every 3 years when I work on a new vision document for my personal, professional and private life. This helps me to make sure what I am planning is aligned with who I desire to be. 

Watch or listen to my podcast episode telling you how to write a vision or mission statement for all aspects of your life.

I Cried When I Wrote This Blog

“How’s the project “The Year When Everything Changed” going to impact your life?” my friend and colleague Christine asked me.

In the beginning it felt good (and easy) to talk about this.

At the start of September 2023 I launched the project “The Year When Everything Changed”. The result of these next 12 months will mean I am being interviewed about my thriving community of Wiseacious Women. 

I will be talking about the first published book and about the second one soon to be released. My popular podcast and blog will naturally come into the conversation too. 

Above all, people will sense my strength, confidence and my immense, enriching energy. They would admire me for no longer turning the light down on my vibrancy and for achieving what I had set out to do 12 months previously:

  • Publish a book
  • Open an Etsy shop
  • Holding inspiring public speeches
  • Launch a community, blog & podcast
  • Regularly running workshops & course
  • Helping people make change happen in their lives

Here is a page from my journal listing the dreams I am realising.

This project means I will have a sustainable business paying me a recurring income I am proud of. 

This last piece is important because I was proud of my position and my salary as a school principal when I burned out spectacularly 9 years ago.

Creating the project “The Year When Everything Changed” is my way of closing that chapter of my life and opening a new one filled with new wealth and prosperity. 

By now I had a lump in my throat from saying this out loud.

What got the tears flowing was Christine’s next question:

What happened that made you decide that this specific year will change something, because I guess this isn’t the first time that you have set new goals for yourself?

What happened was twofold.

One was painful. The other was liberating.

The Painful Truth

My sister and I had been exchanging emails every Sunday since the beginning of the year. In these emails we would reflect on the week past and set new intentions for the coming week. 

By mid-July I was writing to her telling her I was feeling lost and struggling. I had not made the changes that I actually wanted to make. I felt ashamed and frustrated. 

I know I’m brilliant, but I was just not doing what I needed to do, and I was scared.

What she wrote back hit me right in the gut.

It was what my inner voice was already whispering to me. My sister just made 100% sure I wasn’t missing the message. And I love her for that.

She wrote two quotes:

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it“. Thoreau 

“Everyone must choose one of two pains: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” J. Rohn

She went on to write:

If anything, focus on the concept of regret, and its opposite – satisfaction. If you truly want to achieve something, you will be willing to invest your time in it, and you will have no regrets about doing it. It will give you satisfaction. Discipline doesn’t even have to enter the discussion. 

And yes, Thoreau’s quote can be read that there is a price to be paid, but really it is pointing out the transactional nature of achieving anything. For anything to change and grow, you need to give something. The currency of that can be time, effort, ideas, and heart. When it is something you want, or feel passionate about, it is a positive transaction. 

This was a message with two layers of pain:

  1. I clearly saw I was choosing the pain of regret.
  2. And it was painful to realise this.

I could also see that I was missing out on the positive transaction that I knew deep down was possible.

I was gutted.

And it made me take action:

  • I have these words pinned to the top of my notes app on my phone so I can read them regularly.
  • When I feel myself wandering off track during the day, I ask myself which pain I want. I choose discipline every time. It hurts less in the long run.
  • I decided to make this next year, a year of radical change.

The Missing Piece

At the same time I was going through this, I was working with the same colleague, Christine, on my personal branding. 

“It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle” (source unknown)

Working with someone else on my personal branding made it possible to see myself clearly. 

All the pieces fell into place so I now know how to communicate clearly to the world who I am. 

I can feel my personal brand in everything I do. 

I’ve just finished editing my second podcast episode where I took you wild swimming with me and talked about making change happen. 

It felt so right because I have finally got the balance right. 

It’s way easier for me to overcome my fear of “will people like it or even watch it?” because my desire to get my message out there is greater.

And the way I am doing it is so me.

I am me, in full vibrant colour and expansive energy. And I am making change happen.

Do you have things you want to change in your life?

Let the next 12 months be YOUR ““The Year When Everything Changed”.

Join me in the Wiseacious Women COMMUNITY and get support.

Watch and listen to the PODCAST.

And continue to read the BLOG.

By your side, Philippa

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