A discussion about values can often seem like an artificial conversation. It’s a nice to have, not a need to have, right? Something I do once at a training course because the facilitator forces me to do it, and then I shove the paper they’re written on in a desk drawer and forget about it and go on with the rest of my business.
Values can help or hinder our growth and development
What’s interesting to understand about values is they can help us or hinder us. And that might seem counterintuitive, because aren’t values a good thing? The answer is, it depends. Let’s say I value accuracy. If I place too much emphasis on accuracy, I might find myself overworking reports, overworking data, to an extent that’s unnecessary for the task at hand. Many of us trip ourselves up this way and forget the tried and tested 80/20 rule.
One value that I tend to hear a lot from clients is trust. Trust is an interesting one because we often gravitate towards it if we’ve been hurt in the past. Maybe our parents got divorced and it eroded our trust in them. Maybe a spouse or partner cheated on us, and the result was devastating, we can never trust again. Maybe a business partner stole money from us, or a family member wronged us. The list goes on and on.
Based on these life experiences we then conclude that trust is the most important thing in any relationship, and we cling onto it for dear life. We suspiciously look for signs that someone might be untrustworthy. We fear that our worst nightmare will come true, and then it does. We reinforce this idea by telling ourselves things like, “the only person I can trust is myself.”
Fear based values versus conscious based values
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not wrong to value trust. But it’s worth thinking about the relationship you have with your values. Did I consciously choose to value trust because it’s important to me, or am I desperately clinging to this value out of fear? And if I’m clinging to a value out of fear, how might that be blinding me? How might I then be unconsciously creating the situation I fear?
For years I clung to authenticity. It was my biggest personal value. And when I think about my personal history, that makes perfect sense. I grew up in a household where conformity was valued, and I often felt like I could never be myself or loved for who I am. I had to fight very hard for the right to just be myself. I even prided myself at one point of being the proverbial black sheep of the family. I was so concerned with losing my “authentic self” that it inadvertently blinded me to choices I might have liked but wouldn’t even consider because they seemed on the surface to be too conforming.
A few years ago, I gave up authenticity as my most important personal value, not because I don’t value it or think it’s important. But I don’t need to cling to it anymore. Authenticity is just who I am now. I’m not over-identified with it, I just show up as me. Take me or leave the wonderful me that I am.
Our values are similar to a standard operating system or procedure. It’s code that’s been hardwired into us silently over the years. It can come from many places: parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, mentors. But whether we are aware of it or not, it’s always there, in the background, silently running.
The question is, am I running it or is it running me? The point is you can make a mindful choice.
Key questions to take stock of your values
Spend some time thinking about your values. Make a list.
- Which ones do you truly choose? Why?
- Which ones are fear based? How do you know?
- Which ones might be hindering you because you’re over-identified with them?
- Which ones do you want to keep?
- Which ones do you want to let go?
Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!
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