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What Matters to You, What Matters at Work: The Importance of Values Fit
Values guide us. You'll see that it's not that hard to define yours, and, when you do, life becomes easier and much more interesting...
I've been thinking deeply about the principles that underpin living and working well. I've come to understand that a solid set of principles is the Operating System (OS) for your life and work, because they are the foundation upon which your thoughts and behaviours are built in order to live a purposeful, fulfilling, and happy life.
Drawn from ancient wisdom, religious, philosophical, and literary thinking, as well as the natural world, I’ve developed principles that can shape your day-to-day thinking and behaviours in order to: Work better, live more. #WorkKind.
In this article, I share my thinking for the first time on one of these principles:
Live through your values
Personal values define who you are and what you stand for, connecting you to the core of who you are and what matters most to you. They make up your inner compass that guides your actions and decisions in life. By living through them, you create a life of alignment, meaning, and happiness.
Let's get to it. Starting with an experience of mine when company values simply weren't working.
I once led a company that had a fine set of values. Or, at least, that's what I thought...
I wasn't part of the team that created them, but, as the incoming managing director, I thought it best to leave them alone. After all, they were in our conference rooms and everything.
It didn't take me long to realise how ineffectual they were.
Quite simply, because people could only remember one of them (there were five, I think). I can't even remember what it was now, but what I do remember is how often it was cited ironically when something had gone wrong or someone's behaviour wasn't living up to that value.
A company value as a stick to beat us with. That's what this value — the only one that people talked about — had become.
Not defining, not guiding, not inspiring.
Something to reinforce how bad things were.
Don't let your company values get like that. And if they are, then do something about it. Fast.
Because, as you'll now see, it's not that hard to create your personal values, and you'll see how powerful they are.
The Power of Personal Values
Personal values are the principles that define who you are and what you stand for; they are your inner compass that guides your actions and decisions in life. By defining and living by your personal values, you can create a life that is meaningful, authentic, and fulfilling. This way of living enables you to gain clarity, direction, and purpose. It also empowers you to achieve your goals, overcome challenges, and make a positive impact on the world. Living a life guided by a set of core values is a powerful way to live intentionally and with purpose. Living by your personal values is essential to happiness and success, as it brings you closer to your true self, connects you to your passions and goals, and enables you to live a life that is authentic, purposeful, and joyful.
One of the most important reasons to choose and live by values is that they give you direction. When you know what you stand for, it becomes easier to make decisions and take actions that are in line with your goals and aspirations. Instead of feeling lost or uncertain about which path to take, you have a clear sense of what matters to you and what you want to achieve. This clarity can help you stay focused and motivated, even in challenging times.
Your values also help you set boundaries. By knowing what you stand for, you can better determine what is acceptable to you and what is not. This can help you avoid situations that are not aligned with your values and prevent you from making choices that you might regret later on. That's why they're like a compass — they're where you go and where you shouldn't go.
However, not all values are equally important or useful. Some values may be imposed by society or other people, while others that were once important to you may be outdated or irrelevant for your current situation. That’s why it is so important to identify your own personal core values that reflect who you are and what you want.
And some values you might have to work with, whether you like it or not...
What Matters to You, What Matters at Work
I looked up the values of the five largest companies in the world:
Apple: Innovation, excellence, collaboration, diversity and inclusion, social responsibility
Saudi Aramco: Excellence, safety, integrity, citizenship, accountability
Microsoft: Innovation, diversity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility, trustworthiness
Alphabet (Google): Focus on the user, fast and simple solutions, innovation and creativity, collaboration and openness
Amazon: Customer obsession, ownership, invent and simplify, learn and be curious
As I suspected, many of them are bland, and it's questionable to what extent these companies live up to those values as much as they could, should, or say they do.
Values at work and value-fit are hugely important because when your values and those at work are in alignment, that's when the magic happens.
At work, your personal values influence how you think, speak, and act. They also influence how you relate to others, how you handle challenges, and how you achieve your goals. Your personal values can help you find meaning, satisfaction, and fulfilment in your work.
For example, if one of your core values is creativity, you may be more drawn to jobs that allow you to be innovative and come up with new ideas. Similarly, if one of your values is honesty, you are likely to prioritise ethical behaviour and transparency in your work.
Our personal values also impact our relationships with colleagues, customers, and partners. When you share similar values with others, you are more likely to form positive connections and work effectively together. If there is a mismatch in values, it can lead to conflicts, misunderstandings, and disengagement.
That is why, before accepting a job, it is critical to consider how your personal values align with the values and culture of the organization. By doing so, you can ensure that your work is in line with your values, is somewhere you'll actually want to work, and is somewhere you can make a positive impact on the organisation and the world around you.
If the fit isn't there, what matters to them isn't what matters to you. And that's definitely not a good thing.
Working and Living by Your Values
Living by your core values means making choices that honour them in every aspect of your life: personal, professional, social, and spiritual. It also means being aware of when your actions or thoughts are not aligned with your values and making adjustments accordingly. Living by your core values requires courage, commitment, and integrity.
Choosing and living by values is not always easy or comfortable. Sometimes it may require making sacrifices or facing opposition from others who do not share the same values. But it is worth it because living by values can bring you happiness, fulfilment, peace of mind, and a sense of authenticity.
Living a life guided by values is a powerful way to live intentionally and with purpose. Values serve as a compass, guiding you in your decision-making and helping you navigate where you go and where you do not go in your life. By choosing and living by no more than three core values, you can stay focused and prioritise what is most important to you. Personal values play a crucial role in how you work, guiding your behaviour, decision-making, relationships, and motivation in the workplace. When your values align with the organisation's values and mission, you are more likely to feel engaged, committed, and fulfilled at work.
When your values align, that's when you can powerfully #WorkKind.
Let’s look now at how you create values that will guide you.
Identifying and Defining Your Values
You may be extremely impressive and have already established your values. Well done, top of the class! 💪
Most of us aren't there yet.
For years, I didn't create my own values because it seemed too daunting and I didn't know how to best approach it. So I spent hours searching ways to do it, creating lists, and not settling on anything. Fat lot of good that did me.
Personal values are the guiding principles that define who you are and what matters most to you. Defining and living by your values means living with intention and purpose, making choices that align with your beliefs and vision for your life. By doing so, you gain clarity, direction, and a sense of fulfillment that cannot be achieved through aimless wandering.
Aimless wandering — that's right, living without values, and I did a lot of it.
First up, let's start with "The Rule of Three", the idea that things that come in threes are more satisfying, effective, and memorable than any other number of things; because three things are easy to remember, easy to communicate, and create a sense of completeness.
So, choose just three values. Having too many values can lead to confusion, inconsistency, or indecision. Having fewer but more meaningful values can help you focus on what is essential and avoid distractions.
See, it's already easier.
Let's look at four ways to create your values.
#1 Just write them down
Right now, write down the three values that come immediately to mind as the ones most important in guiding you.
No hesitations. Three words. On whatever piece of paper you can find. Your phone will do as well.
Sleep on it, and if they still inspire you... well, that wasn't so hard, was it?
#2 Look back on your life
Another way to identify your core values is to look back on your life and find examples of times when you felt happy, proud, fulfilled, or inspired. What were you doing? Who were you with? What factors contributed to those feelings? These can give you clues about what values matter most to you.
#3 Think of your legacy
You can also think about what you would like to be remembered for at the end of your life. What legacy would you like to leave behind? What impact would you like to have on others? What qualities would you like others to admire in you? Again, these can help you determine the values that matter most to you.
#4 Ask around
Or, simply ask people who know you well what they think your values are. You'll no doubt be surprised by how perceptive and consistent they are.
Whatever approach you take, can I ask you one thing?
Just do it, and do it today. Please.
In case you're interested...
These are my three values:
An honest, unswerving commitment to noble ideals and a belief that one person — me— can make a difference.
Meeting the world with the mindset and intention of learning together and discovering what is possible.
Being attentive to the feelings, needs, and wellbeing of others and taking actions to support them.
If you know me, call me out if you don't think I'm living by them!
Work better, live more. #WorkKind
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Follow my stories, ideas, and practices to help you thrive on the socials that suit you.
And, most importantly, be kind to yourself today.
See you next Wednesday.