Values: The Super-Fuel for Great Decision-Making
We make countless decisions every week, some so unimportant they are almost invisible and others so mountainous that they keep us locked in position, powerless to take action for fear of….of what exactly? Of getting it wrong? Of being judged? Of admitting something is not quite perfect? Or of not believing change is actually in our power?
In this first week of 2018, I want to talk about a decision that most people would consider a big one – What work shall I do?
Did you choose, tumble or were you pushed?
How did you get into your current role? Was it a carefully orchestrated strategy from school to degree, to internship, to graduate scheme and then to a management role? If that’s you, I have to let you into a secret – you’re in the minority!
In my experience, most people just stumbled into something that was ‘vaguely interesting’, that ‘paid the bills’, that ‘was somewhere to start’, ‘handy’ or that someone else chose for them – parents perhaps, or friends. But several months, years or decades down the line, it seems this work doesn’t fit any more. And that growing sense of dissatisfaction is getting noisier, itchier and more difficult to ignore.
How to get unstuck?
One thing that keeps us stuck more than anything is not knowing – not knowing where to start, what we want, how to uncover what would really provide the fulfillment we crave in our working lives and not knowing how to make it happen.
So in this article I'm going to break that cycle of powerlessness and share the knowledge of what I’ve found works for successful career-changers.
So what makes a great decision?
You have a problem – in this case, yearning to change career direction but not knowing where to start. So would you say a great decision will provide the solution - and specifically in this case enable you to identify your new path and get you into action to achieve it? That sounds fair.
Fair yes (but of course you know this already) – not simple! If it was, you’d have worked it out for yourself already and be sitting in your new domain, flooded with purpose, engagement and energy. You’d know you were in the right place doing work that has meaning for you and that provides the rewards you need and want.
But one part of the puzzle that is crucial to a successful career change is actually a very easy concept – knowing what’s important to you.
Let’s say that again because it sounds so simple: What is important to you?
And this isn’t an interview question in which you have to second-guess the expectations of your interviewer and be the person they’re looking for. This is you talking to yourself, so brutal honesty is vital.
Give yourself a quick 5-minute break and scribble down your answers. There is no right or wrong answer. Do it now!
……. Coffee time ……..
And now you have a rough starting point, let’s dive a little deeper into this new world of what holds most value in your life. You might have a list of say 5 things and they might include words like: adventure, security, integrity, family, love, freedom, money, status, creativity, travel, flexibility….. an almost endless list of possibilities. So you can see why I talked about a ‘starting point’.
We’re Talking Values
Yes, it’s your values that hold the key to the work that fits you like a glove and that fulfills you from top to toe.
According to values researcher and writer Richard Barrett, ‘Value-based decision-making allows us to create a future that resonates deeply with who we are.’ In his article on the Six Modes of Decision-Making, Barrett talks about how we make decisions, and that as we develop, we may use different approaches to choices we make in life. Value-based choices tend to come later – when we have grown into being a self-authoring individual. In fact, our values can often be hidden from us – I know this wasn’t a topic that was ever covered at school!
While there is of course still room for ‘logic and rational thinking’ in making decisions, I agree with Barrett that our biggest decisions – the ones that we hang a very great deal upon - should ‘ pass the values test’. Your career is surely one of these.
Getting Your Values Out
So in order to create the future you want, getting clear on your values has to be step one. And you’ve just started by jotting down your initial list.
What happens next follows a logical progression – if one of your top values is FREEDOM, your most authentic decisions will allow you to display freedom.
Let’s take an example from my own experience. Freedom is in fact one of my most important values and when I took the decision to create Freestyle Careers I was expressing this value – not just in the name, but also in the action. I express the value daily when I take decisions about this business I have created – no one else directs the future of the business, I am free to do it for myself. And yes, I love that freedom. I feel most energized and alive when I am working with Freestyle clients or spreading the word – or Freestyling as I’ve started to call it. Even saying that makes me smile.
Getting Your Values into Action
Does your current work allow you to express your top values? To what extent is this possible and how often? Or does your work or your organization actually clash with what you hold most dear? If the latter is true, you probably realize that this is a key reason why you are experiencing dissatisfaction, frustration and a steady sapping of energy. I’ve been there too and at some point I’ve reached my limit. No more! That’s when I’ve made a change.
Values Just Keep on Giving
The second powerful reward in knowing your top values, is that this knowledge is hugely energizing. When my values are aligned with my work I can work for hours without thinking about time and for me, this is a real gift and a huge productive force. I’ve written about this in my free download ‘Finding Your Flow’ and this is a great place to start. When was the last time you were so absorbed in your work that you missed lunch – and didn’t care?
The third great reward of knowing my values is that they provide a seemingly endless source of fuel to keep me going in the face of challenges – whether I have to master new skills, overcome knotty business problems or get properly out of my comfort zone – all are possible when my values line up with my work. Setting up a new business (as you will know if you’ve tried it) is nothing if not challenging! I would never have found the strength and resilience to keep on rolling with Freestyle if it wasn’t allowing me to express key values. Freedom is one, but so are creativity and vitality. Imagine the power of those 3 in your sails!
I’m with Richard Barrett when he claims that values are ‘the energetic drivers of our aspirations and intentions.’ Not only do they set us going in our true direction, but they keep us moving across all terrain. Super-fuel.
So what’s holding you back?
If you’re hungry for a future that is true to who you are and that provides you with energy, fulfillment and purpose, values are the very best starting point. You’ve started already, so why not keep it going?
To get pure clarity on your VALUES, understand what they mean to you, strengthen them in your life and use them to build the future you really want, join my Freestyle Values Discovery Programme.
All my career programmes also offer you the chance to explore and activate your values, so take a closer look at the various options here.
For a free resource to get you further along the path, download ‘Finding Your Flow’ today and let that energy out of its box.
The Six Modes of Decision-Making, Richard Barrett
Everything I Have Leant About Values, Richard Barrett
These articles I wrote last year also explore your VALUES: Eyes Wide Open; Panning for Gold; When the Answer is not 42; Why Fiddling with your CV is Sabotaging your Career Change