Your values not only define who you are but also serve as guideposts for you to make decisions with clarity and conviction toward a more purposeful life. Take a look at the major decisions in your life and you’ll pick up on themes of the driving forces that influenced those decisions. You may even notice that the more these forces align with what you “value”, the happier you are with the outcome and feel more at peace. When we reflect on our values, we can better understand and express what guides us, our actions, behaviors, and decisions. On our journey toward success, I’m delighted to share a little personal story and an exercise to help you identify and better understand your values.
It had been a little over 7 years since I had moved to New York when this deep sense of restlessness crept up on me. When I reflected on that unsettling feeling, I realized that it was because living in New York no longer aligned with my core values. I had moved from Istanbul, leaving my family, friends, and my home behind to grow personally and professionally, to test my capabilities as an independent individual in one of the toughest cities in the world. I wanted to prove to myself that I had the knowledge, the skills, and the perseverance to create a new life, a network, and a career here. The values that guided me in my late 20s were apparently related to self-development, challenge, and perseverance; slowly overshadowing my other values: kindness, connection, and positive impact.
I found myself struggling with an internal conflict between who I aspired to be and the version of myself trying to make it in New York – feeling rushed and overwhelmed, disconnected from my inner voice as I was getting distracted by all the amazing opportunities that came my way, and most importantly feeling that I was missing out on the important little moments being so far away from family and friends.
As much as I loved my life in New York, it was a challenging environment for me because living there came at the expense of some of my core values. A simple exercise enabled me to explicitly identify these core values, so I could intentionally align my life and find a place that would be a better environment for me to live by them. I couldn’t feel more at peace and pleased with my decision to move to London – a dynamic professional ecosystem, the exciting challenge of being in a new city, the proximity to both New York and Istanbul, and the fact that I already had a small network of close friends here made it the perfect place for me to live by my values and be set up for a successful, fulfilling life.
Try this simple (yet challenging) exercise to identify and be more explicit about your core values to lead a life with a deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment.
1. Make a List
Start by making a list of the ten or fifteen values that are most important to you. Think about your life, your personality, and what matters to you. If you feel stuck you can get inspiration from this list of common values:
2. Select Your Core Values
From your list, identify the five that are the most important to you. This is the challenging part of the exercise because I know that all of the items on your first list are values you want to live by. In reality, when we have to make a decision or take action, some of these have to matter more to us than the others. So, what are the top 2-5 values that matter to you the most? Write them down!
3. Live by Your Values
Now, think about the behaviors that support these values and the behaviors that get in the way of you fully living in your value. For each value, remember a time, an instance when you were fully living in that value, and reflect on the feelings and behaviors you displayed. Going forward, pay attention to these behaviors.
I encourage you to discuss this exercise and your values with your family, friends, and your colleagues so you could understand each other better and connect on a deeper level.
By identifying and defining your values, you become more intentional about living by them and having a deeper understanding of what influences your decisions. You’ll soon start to feel that this type of clarity and conviction allows you to lead a life with a deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment.
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GG is a personal and professional development coach, and an organizational consultant focused on culture and leadership development. Her passion and talent in empowering individuals to discover their skills, strengths, and passions enables her to assist them in creating and leading fulfilling lives. Based on her cross-disciplinary background and experience, GG's unique approach incorporates resources, insights, and tools from a wide range of fields, including entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, psychology, design, mindfulness, and sustainability. Her coaching approach focuses on areas of motivation, engagement, and inspiration to amplify and build on the individual’s strengths so they can create a better environment toward their ideal future. Her company Mercury Change offers training, workshops, and leadership development programs for organizations.