How Values Change Everything

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I think of values as a critical element in enabling and focusing individual and collective success. Values shape your life, leadership, career and relationships. If you are currently going through life without knowing what your values are, you’re missing out on a powerful force for good that can offer a turbo-charged boost to propel you to where you want to go.

“Personal values are what a person believes to be important. They help prioritize life’s demands and often serve as a compass or guide in decision making and behavior. Yet, many people are unable to verbalize the values that guide them.”

The Arthur W. Page Center, Personal Values: The Foundation of Ethical Literacy, Penn State

This week I’m sharing how values change everything. Take a look at some of the many ways that values are transformational, and if you haven’t identified yours yet, I’ll share some advice on how to get started.

How Values Change Everything

Reduce Your Stress and Improve Your Decision Making

“College students experiencing high stress were better able to figure out a creative problem-solving task under time pressure if they first wrote a few sentences about their most important values. When they identified and focused on their significant values, they were able to solve as many problems as students in a low-stress group.”

Meg Sellg, 9 Surprising Superpowers of Knowing Your Core Values, Psychology Today

Shape Your Story and Career Conversations

“Knowing your values and being able to articulate them will support you as you make decisions about your career. Your values will inevitably shape the story you tell about yourself in email introductions, during informational interviews, at networking events and even on your application materials.”

Daniel J. Moglen, Making Values-Informed Career Decisions, Inside Higher Ed

Deepen Your Critical Thinking

“Good critical thinking is not value-neutral, nor is it merely instrumental; it is intimately connected with both values and attitudes.”

Rick Reis, Rethinking Critical Thinking: Values and Attitudes, Stanford University

Improve Your Willpower

“To activate your willpower, you must remind yourself why it’s important for you to do something.” It is your deepest values and goals that give you that ‘why.’

Meg Sellg, 9 Surprising Superpowers of Knowing Your Core Values, Psychology Today

Increase Your Happiness

“Our actions should be aligned with our values, but you’ll be surprised by how many people haven’t even thought about it, or spend years ignoring the signs, or even doing the complete opposite of what would actually make them happy.”

Jessica Dang, How Our Values Change the Course of Our Lives, Minimal Student

Provide Shared Common Ground

“Values have significant power to unite and energise people. Shared values can connect, where race, religion, politics and gender can divide.”

Why Personal Values Matter, Evolving Leaders

Transform Your Leadership

“By understanding the invisible forces of values, leaders can implement value creation strategies further and faster throughout their organisations, harnessing and unleashing the strongest force in business today: the motivational driving force within each and every employee.”

Scott Lichtenstein, The Role of Values in Leadership: How Leaders’ Values Shape Value Creation, Integral Leadership Review

Provide You With a Sense of Fulfillment

“My experience with people who live unsatisfying lives is that the values they grew up with mostly weren’t unhealthy and that their present values haven’t changed since childhood. They never questioned their values… In contrast, fulfilled people tended to grow up with life-affirming values or had a “crisis of conscience” in early adulthood that caused them to re-evaluate and modify their values.”

Jim Taylor, Ph.D,, Personal Growth: Your Values, Your Life, Psychology Today

How to Write a Personal Values Statement

If you are not yet tapping into the power of values in your life and leadership, think about how transformational it would be to find your happier, lower stress, and more fulfilled life. Isn’t that what we all want?

When you’re ready to write your Personal Values Statement, here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Learn what makes ethical values different from other values.
  2. Start a list of your favorite values. When you admire someone, notice which ethical values they are showing in their thinking and actions. It is respect? Care for others? Sustainability? Inclusion, integrity, or kindness?
  3. As you populate your list over time, think about which ethical values you consider to be the most important for you to live by. Refine your jotted list to your top 4-5 ethical values. Reflect on it and refine it over time.
  4. Next to each of the 4-5 values you have chosen, write how and why you chose that value and why it is important to live by. Here is an example: Respect: I learned from my parents that respect for others is one of the keys to being a good person and a good citizen. I will show respect even when I strongly disagree with what someone is saying.
  5. After you have done this for 4-5 values, you have written your personal values statement! Put it in your wallet, on your mirror, or another place where you will see it frequently.
  6. Update your statement as you notice your priorities shifting, or at least every other year.

Your personal values statement will come in handy when making difficult decisions (always stay true to those values!), explaining your capabilities to employers, sharing your priorities with teams you lead, making decisions about important relationships, and talking about values with family members and friends.

Your personal values statement will help you know who you are and what you stand for. It will keep you anchored when life is busy, when you’re stressed, and when your persistence is tested. Tap into the extraordinary power of values to create the life you want for yourself and those you lead.

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership  

© 2009-2023 Leading in Context LLC


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