How to make sure your work aligns with your values

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A mentor once told me that the only way you truly know what your values are are when they are violated.

Like when a key partner betrays your trust.

Or when you try a new marketing strategy that makes you feel disingenuous.

Or when you are encouraged as a kid to tease someone at school, even when you don’t want to.

When you betray your values, you feel awkward, uneasy, and even sick.

Conversely, when your actions match your core beliefs, you feel a sense of calm, ease and peace.

In my decades coaching people in many different work environments, I find that values mis-match is the biggest cause of angst, dissatisfaction and conflict in the workplace.

And most often this is the case because we don’t take the time to clarify our values, then choose jobs, partners and clients that resonate with those values.

So as you finish up this year and look toward planning your business and career moves for 2014, answer the following questions:

  1. What do you value?
    Brainstorm a list of values. Review the list, choose the top five, and create a definition for each.
  2. What do you believe?
    List the top five things you know for sure about your life, yourself and your career.
  3. Why do you believe them?
    Describe the life experiences that have shaped your values and beliefs.
  4. Whom do you care deeply about serving?
    Who are the people you want to impact?
    Why are they important to you?
    What will happen in their lives as a result of your support?
  5. Which problems do you want to solve?
    What do you want to fix?
    What could be made better in the world with your help?
  6. What drives you to act?
    Which thoughts, feelings, circumstances or beliefs drive you to act?

Now that you have this information, look at your current work situation.

  • Are you in a role where you can act according to your values and beliefs?
  • Are you serving those who you care most about serving?
  • Are you making an impact on problems and issues you want to solve?
  • Are you set up for success, so you have the support you need to take action?

If so, keep at it! Build on this success, and go deeper and stronger in your work next year.

If not, look at changes you can make to get yourself in alignment with your values, up to and including changing jobs, changing your business model, or getting new partners.

Life is too short to trade your well-being for a paycheck. Take action.

BODYofWORKsoftWant to learn more about creating work-values alignment? Pre-order my brand new book Body of Work. Details here:

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16 Responses to “How to make sure your work aligns with your values”

  1. Kitty says:

    some great questions people can ask themselves here to learn to create value in what they do. I am currently in pre-launch stages of my own coaching business based on the philosophy of life design and some of these questions are what I ask my clients. I think asking which problems you want to solve is fantastic – what I ask is what problem are you purposely not solving – sometimes this key to unlocking the blocker!

  2. Celeste says:

    When our clients are writing business plans, it is really helpful for them to do an exercise like this one so they can express their personal values in their business plan (Mission/Vision/Values statement) and then make sure that their goals and operations match those values.

  3. Hey Pam – great stuff here. I am enjoying Body of Work – about 1/2 way through so far. The combination of values and purpose if powerful. “He who knows why he lives can bear with almost any how.” (Viktor Frankl)

    All of this has spawned a graduate studies focus! Thanks for the nudge along the way!

  4. […] Start with: How to get your groove back (getting success once you’ve lost it) and How to make sure your values align with your work. […]

  5. Jason says:

    For ever I was unhappy at my job, but I didn’t know why. I just thought that was what everyone went through. I lost that job and began to learn more about “lifestyle development” and now I can’t believe how much I have change and what I won’t ever do for money again.

  6. Sue Davidson says:

    This above all, to thine own self be true
    For it must follow as the night the day;
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.

    Great advice from Shakespeare as from Pam!

  7. […] year just finished – is making sure that how you spend your time aligns with your values. In this post, Pamela Slim presents a set of questions to help you define and apply your values to the work of […]

  8. Linda says:

    I have just completed my Bachelor degree and have started looking for a job. I am at a crossroad: I want to find a job align with my values, who i am and what i want to do. But these voices just keep telling me that i am just out of school, i can’t have it. I just have to take what’s offered. I can’t be picky, beggars can’t be choosers.
    I am starting to believe them, and at the same time i feel like i am betraying myself. Like i have no power as to the direction my careers takes. i don’t mind starting at the bottom, i just need to know that the ladder i will be climbing is leaned against the right wall.
    I want to believe i can have a job aligned with myself, that it’s possible and i deserve it!

    • Benita says:

      I can relate to your concerns of starting a job at the bottom yet second guessing yourself if that’s the way togo. If you financially can wait and look for your perfect job that will slide you into a career lifestyle you have dreamed of then you are ahead of the game. Unless you need to start a job ASAP then yes taking a job to pay your bills while you continue to look for Your perfect match. Doing so lets future management see a work history not just a blank slate.

  9. Totally. There are a thousand different ways to accomplish any one thing, and it’s worth spending the time to find the ways that make you feel good.

    On the basis that you can only truly know your values when you’re asked (by yourself or others) to violate them, there are two ways you could put that into use when you’re planning for the year ahead:

    1. Procrastination as feedback. Is there something you think would help your business or career, but for some reason you’ve been putting it off for months? Maybe it’s not just laziness, but it’s unconsciously opposed to how you believe you should conduct yourself. That means you should take it as a signal that you should forget about doing it, rather than beating yourself up about not having done it yet.

    2. Mental rehearsal. Take something that you think would be advantageous, and list all the steps that would lead up to it. Read through the list and really imagine yourself undertaking all those actions. Do you feel excited? Go for it. Do you feel uneasy on some level? Maybe it’s not in line with your values, so try something else instead.

  10. Kai Dupe says:

    Great Advice Pam. I could not agree more. We were all taught we had to “earn a living” and we were not taught that we could actually enjoy a living. These are precisely the kinds of lessons I have already begun to teach my 7 and 5 year-old children.

    Can’t wait to read the book.

  11. Steven Le says:

    ‘Life is too short to trade your well-being for a paycheck. Take action.’ This here is the absolute truth! It’s for this exact same reason that I quit my job. I worked selling mobile phones and it just did not fulfil my life. I didn’t feel like I was solving problems or making the world better doing what I was doing. Not to mention there were too many days where I didn’t even get a lunch break and was forced to stand for 9 hours due to lack of staff.

    Glad I left. Now I lead my dreams every day =)

  12. Good point Pam,

    One must stay true to thyself first and foremost or you are setting yourself up for more misery.

    Do the right thing people stop trying to justify bs.

  13. faisal says:

    Set a culture, which will lead to values, follow them and you are set.

  14. Great questions Pam! Knowing and valuing ourselves is the key
    to taking effective action and getting satisfying results. Not
    only are we building success, we’re expressing the joy of being
    who we really are.

  15. Ali Davies says:

    This is such an important, but often overlooked, topic in the quest for a fulfilling life. Our society seems to have it deeply in the collective mindset that work is something to endure and tolerate as a stepping stone to other things in life.

    The more we can change that mindset and spread the message that values based living and working is the way to go, the healthy our lives, businesses and communities will become in many different ways and on many different levels.