How can you work on your goals by discovering your values?

How are you getting on with your 2022 goals so far? Now we've reached February you might well be making progress and hitting your first months' milestone. Well done and keep going if so!

If things aren't quite working out as well as you'd hoped, you may want to review your goals to see if they are aligned to your values. If you haven't checked in with your values for a while - or ever - then here's a simple exercise to help you get started. Your goals are important to you, so with some minor changes to include what I call values - you might call them personal standards, pillars, or rules for how you live your life - you can make your goals more powerful if they are in line with what you already believe in.

I used this exercise with Peter, who came to coaching as a new manager to develop his skills and lead the team through a new project. He had some views on how he didn't want to be, which were based on the management style of the boss he had in his last job. He was looking to find a way to do the job his way, and gain confidence with his management style. Some of his key values were respect, integrity and authenticity. He used these initially to make decisions by asking himself 'am I doing this with authenticity?' 'Am I being authentic?' He wanted to look himself in the eye at the end of each day and say he had done an excellent job, in line with his values.

The real test came for him just a few months into the job. The start of the pandemic in 2020. He had to quickly change direction, which meant redundancies in his team. After an initial panic of 'I can't do this, I'm out of my depth' he worked his way through the company policy. I asked him, before his first meeting, 'How can you do this with respect? How can you do it with authenticity? How can you keep your integrity throughout the process?

When some individuals were disrespectful to him, he recognised his values were being compromised, his buttons were being pressed and things became uncomfortable for him. His previous response would have been to be rude or sarcastic back. He was able to behave in line with his own personal values and maintain a respectful and authentic response, delivered with integrity. By raising his awareness of what values were important to him he was able to reach his goal. He found a management style he was happy with, by doing a difficult job on his own terms and in his own way.

Finding out what your values are can be difficult. Stick with it. You could try on a few values to see if they fit you. This is a process of personal discovery. Your values can change over time, so it's helpful to check in with yourself occasionally. Ask yourself, are you living your life in line with your values? Try the exercise below and find out.

Values exercise

This activity can help you to identify your own personal core values that are fundamental to who you are and what is important to you. You can start this exercise by asking yourself the following questions.

What is important to you?

What do you need in your life?

What's so critical to who you are that you'd almost forget to mention it?

If you are struggling to identify words that sum up your values, you may like to select from the list below. Please do not feel restricted by this, it is fine to use your own words.

Aim to come up with 10-15 values that describe what is important to you.

Values (a non-exhaustive list)

Accountability Achievement Advancement Adventure Affection Altruism Art Authority Attractiveness Caring Challenge Change Closeness Coaching Compassion Co-operation Community Competence Competition Conformity Congruence Connected Creativity Culture Decisiveness Democracy Development Educate Effectiveness Encourage Endeavour Energise Ethics Excellence Excitement Exhilaration Expertise Faith Fame Family Financial (security) Freedom Friendship Fun Growth Harmony Helping Honesty Imagination Impact Independence Influence Intellect Invention Involvement Knowledgeable Learning Leadership Love Loyalty Money Nature Openness Order Originality Passion Patriotism Peace Play Pleasure Power Privacy Purity Quality Recognition Relationships Religion Reputation Respect Responsibility Risk Security Society Stability Status Tranquillity Truth Variety Venture Wealth Wisdom Work

Now it gets more difficult as it's time to reduce the list, aim for about 5-8 words in total. You can do this by looking at which words are really describing the same core value, e.g. space and freedom may mean the same thing for you. Once you have your final list of words try to prioritise these. Be as honest as you can with yourself to gain the maximum benefit. This may not be easy, remember this is a personal exercise to raise your awareness.

What do your values mean in practical terms?

The way to find out is by asking for the evidence that allows you know that the criteria (for you) have been met. It may not always be easy to find your values. But it is important to try to explore this and understand when your values are violated. How do you react? What does this mean for you?

You may like to discuss this exercise with a coach. You can contact me here to book in for a complimentary chat.

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