Have you ever been so frustrated by something, but you were not exactly certain why you were so upset? Why you connect with some people, but not others?
Or why you are motivated in some aspects of your life, but not in others? Often times, what makes us tick is aligned with who we are at our core. The things that drive us, motivate us, inspire us, were both all developed at an early age and were also developed over time based on life-experiences. So why do you behave the way you do? Well, your actions are most likely related to your core values.
What are Core Values?
Your core values are a set of fundamental beliefs that inform you on how to conduct your life. In other words, your core values are what you aspire to be and drive your day-to-day behavior. Your core values show up in both your personal and professional life. Core values show up in your personal life through how you raise your children, the people you choose to interact with, and the choices you make. Core values show up in your professional life through your decision-making, your problem-solving, and where you choose to allocate your resources.
Core values are developed as early as childhood. We tend to mimic the views and behaviors of our parents, siblings, and relatives because that is the only information we have to go off of. As we get older, we begin to experience life: different people, different views, different lifestyles, and personal adversities. How we respond to life experiences are influenced by core values, but may also adjust over time due to these same experiences. We begin to see that there are other ways of thinking than our own and we may develop new core values that we did not know existed, all based on our progression through life. One reason why core values are so interesting is because there is no “one-size-fits-all” model. They influence how we behave, but they can also change with new information and for each individually differently.
Me and My Values
One of my core values is that actions speak louder than words. The most notable way this value impacts my life is by how I respond to individuals who do not act on their words: they say one thing, yet do another. Many people, myself included, rightly get frustrated with individuals who say they will do something then do not, and that experience leads me to either minimize communication with them or I lose trust in them. For me, if I say I am going to do something, then I am going to do it. If for some reason I cannot, then I communicate that. What it ultimately boils down to is respect. If you say you are going to do something, then I expect you to do it.
Another core value of mine is punctuality. I joke around that I have “time anxiety”, but I may not be too far off. I believe that if you are exactly on time, then you are late. Playing basketball growing up, if practice started at 7 pm, that meant you were on the baseline ready to go by 7 pm. I would show up 30 minutes before to get ready, get stretched out, so when it was time to go it was time to go. This value shows up in my professional life because I am consistently 20-30 minutes early to the office or any training I have that day. I view being late as disrespectful and unprofessional, and I also do not like to be rushed. So I am going to make sure that I show up early.
I also value accountability. More specifically, I believe you should take responsibility for your actions. If you make a mistake, own it. If extra work needs to be done, do not wait for others to charge, hold yourself accountable by taking that initiative. Another branch off the accountability tree is doing what is right. For example, our boss allows us to telework the last two hours of the day. It is very easy to go down the route of “I got off work two hours early!” even though you are still being paid for those two hours. I hold myself accountable and make sure I work those last two hours because it is the right thing to do. It all starts by holding yourself accountable.
What Do You Value?
One strategy to identify your own core values is by thinking about the important decisions you have had to make in your life. Ask yourself a few questions:
“Why was this an important decision in my life?”
“Why did I make the decision that I did?”
“Who did this decision impact?”
Whether you ask yourself one of these questions or all of them, they may help you discover what core values were “behind the scenes” that influenced your decision. Another strategy to identify your core values is to reflect on a different set of questions:
“What is important to me?”
“What character traits do I possess and/or value in others?”
The last time you were extremely frustrated, “why was that?”
The last time you were extremely proud or felt accomplished, “Why was that?”
This series of questions gets at the same intent as the prior questions: to reflect and gain a deeper understanding of what makes you tick. By reflecting on what guided your behaviors in those moments, why you experienced the emotions that you did, or what is important to you, can open up pathways to the discovery of what lies in your core values.
Living through your values can impact your internal motivation in strong ways. It can help you be more productive,achieve your goals, and help you live a more authentic life. However, conflict may also rear its ugly head if you become overly rigid in your values and expect others to mirror them in every respect. Every individual is unique, which means we all have different things that we value. Having differing values can be a learning experience and help you connect with others if you take more of a learning mindset, and perhaps assimilating them as you see fit Discover your values, live through your values, understand the values of others, and take the time to understand the world around you.