How Living Your Values Increases Happiness & Power

The first step to taking 100% responsibility for the outcomes in your life is to get clear about what is important to you. What do you value? Values represent our guiding principles, our broadest motivations. They are the attitudes and ideas we hold that influence how we act. This applies to individuals, organizations and societies. I used to think identifying values was just a good idea. Then I learned the power created when behavior is truly aligned with what we say we want. When we make time for the things we identify as most important, our satisfaction expands.

There are many kinds of values. To keep things simple I will mention two: Core Values and Aspirational Values. Unlike belief systems, which must be regularly examined and updated, core values must remain constant if they are to be an effective tool. For example, the northern star is valuable to navigators because it remains consistently fixed in the heavens. It is a tool that provides accurate direction when needed no matter where the person is located; it is a constant in a world full of variables.

Aspirational values are those behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that you are working towards. The distinction is important because of the impact on engagement. If you were to state innovation as a core value and your policies and the behavior of leadership do not reinforce or support this value, you will create cynicism and disengagement. You may reduce innovation because your most innovative employees may leave. However, if you state this as an aspirational value, you are more honest about the need to be more innovative. It will not create a false expectation that can come back to haunt you.

Companies spend a great deal of time and money defining values that are important to them. The challenge seems to be; behaving in harmony with those values. I have experienced first hand how making decisions and behaving in alignment with your stated values improves personal and employee satisfaction. Just as important, it improves efficiency and productivity. Not only is behaving in alignment with your stated values the right thing to do, it will benefit your bottom line. Following the constant guidance of positive values will lead you inexorably to the situation and outcome you desire.

Here are some ways to identify your values:

  1. What drives you crazy– Take a moment to identify what drives you crazy. Think about the opposite of that and you will identify what you value.
  2. A PEAK Experience –Think of a time in your life when you were excited, happy or fulfilled- Tell the story to someone and ask them to help you identify what you valued about those experiences.
  3. Suppressed Values – Things you long for but are not getting. (I love to be out in nature.)
  4. Invisible Values – These values are honored naturally, you do not think about them. Quirks (Have to have the pillows straight) Hugh Grant movies make me squirm. I don’t like to look foolish or stupid. I value being competent polished, etc.
  5. Must Haves – Look at what you must have in your life beyond food, shelter, and community.
  6. Obsessive Expression – Do you insist on honoring a value as a demand. Look for places you take a value to extreme. (The need to be right, to be in control, to avoid conflict at all cost, resistance to being managed or following rules, the need to work hard, focus on problems, worry, unrealistic expectations, overly sensitive to being embarrassed, thinking about what you will say vs. listening, compulsive need to be heard, needing to be liked, fear of rejection, indecisive, overly agreeable, deferring, overly skeptical, slow to trust, over planning, perfectionism, inflexible, constant need for variety, enjoying interruptions, need for autonomy and independence and more.) These can hold you back.
  7. Your Future Self – Think about who you wish to become or who you are becoming.

Identify and take responsibility for the things that are most important to you. How does this give you power? When you allow life to happen to you, you take what comes. Your schedule is at the mercy of others and it will fill up with trivial activities and interruptions. I hear my clients say from time to time: “I am too busy…to exercise, or to socialize, or to enjoy some quiet time!” Make time for the things you value most. It will energize you, it will force you to be more efficient and effective. You will begin to take back power over your life. YOU get to decide where you will spend your time and energy. If family is important, schedule time for them. If work, making money, exercise and sports, family, friends, church, etc. are important to you, schedule time in your week for them. Schedule time with the people that are important to you.

Dr. Daniel Amen who is a brain disorder specialist who wrote “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.” He says that we harness our brain’s power when we give it direction and vision. Having a purpose in your life aligned with your values gives you power. As you look back at your days and weeks and you have made time for the most important things in your life, you will have a sense of satisfaction, happiness and power.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

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