In order to find meaning in the work you do, it’s essential to align what you do with who you are. This means defining your purpose or vision for what you do based on your values.
In the strategic planning I do with newer organizations, we begin by clarifying mission, vision and values. Typically, they are done in this order. While the mission and vision are determined by the founder, CEO or a small group of leaders, an organization’s values should be representative of collective employees and therefore co-created.
On the other hand, individuals should begin by first clarifying their values, which can then serve as a guide to a personal vision or purpose. Only through this clarity around values can one hope to find and reach a personal vision or purpose to enable vocational focus.
Values are simply the things you believe are important to the way you live. They are lasting beliefs or ideals that determine what you think is desirable or undesirable. Our values typically don’t change, but may be refined as we age.
What Are Your Values?
According to Susan David, author of Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, there are questions you may want to ask yourself in order to help identify your own values. Sample questions could include things like:
- Deep down, what matters to me?
- What relationships do I want to build?
- What do I want my life to be about?
- How do I feel most of the time?
- What kind of situations make me feel most vital?
Answers to these questions can lead to discovering what values are most important to you. Though the questions may be difficult to answer, they are helpful in guiding you towards the work you want to do and life you want to live.
According to Susan David, the characteristics of values should be that they:
- Are freely chosen and have not been imposed on you.
- Are not goals; that is, they are ongoing rather than fixed.
- Guide you rather than constrain you.
- Are active, not static.
- Allow you to get closer to the way you want to live your life.
- Bring you freedom from social comparisons.
- Foster self-acceptance, which is crucial to mental health.
One of my personal values is integrity, which to me means showing up authentically and doing the right thing in all my interactions. My chosen profession as an organization development consultant and leadership coach enables and challenges me to demonstrate this regularly.
It’s important to define and fully understand your own values before you can find meaning or purpose in life. While this can be separate from the work you do, the more you can integrate it into your profession, the more likely you will find satisfaction in all of your life.
While organizations should begin with a vision and later define values, individuals should start by clarifying values in order to determine their purpose or personal vision. Start with your values and you’ll more likely find an organization that aligns the work you do with who you are. And that will lead to much greater satisfaction.