Does your work match your personal values?

April 12, 2021 - 9 min read
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Take control of your work life in 5 steps

Check in with your team

Purpose and meaning

Every day you’re faced with making decisions:

What should I do when I’m overlooked for a promotion?

Your child needs your attention, but you want to get on a Zoom Happy Hour with your team. Which is more important?

How do I handle a request from a colleague that requires me to bend the truth?

When you are wrestling with a decision and you feel stuck, whether it’s a life-changing career opportunity or what to prioritize over the weekend, the answer can often be discovered in your values. Values, such as honesty, love of learning, authenticity, or courage, are what you believe is important in life. Values show you who you are, or want to be, and provide a framework for how you act.

The values you embrace may be ones you picked up from your family, through your education, your religious traditions, maybe your mentors. If you haven’t thought about your values recently, check out which values resonate with you right now.

People who act in accordance with their values are aligned. When you’re aligned, you operate with integrity, which comes from the Latin integer, meaning whole or complete. This means you take action through the lens of your beliefs, and others can rely on you to be consistent and dependable.

As much as you strive to feel whole, there are times when that’s not the case. It can happen when the job you’re currently doing doesn’t interest you and seems tedious. Every day is becoming a grind and you’re worried that you’ll never get back to doing what you really want to be doing.

In this space, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger, more complete, picture. You feel as if you have no control over your circumstances.

What would happen if you were to consider what is in your control? By reminding yourself of what matters most, those values which you know are your guiding principles, you have the opportunity to regain your sense of purpose in your work. You might bring more meaning into your daily life by celebrating how you’re able to provide well for your family. Or knowing how your company supports personal development.

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When you believe you have a choice to make a positive difference in what you do at work and in your life, you are acting with agency. Positive psychology pioneer Martin Seligman says that agency is the belief that you can change the world for the better.  Here are the three active steps Seligman says are necessary for agency to occur:

  1. Efficacy – the belief that you can accomplish the goal now.
  2. Optimism– the belief that you can accomplish the goal in the future.
  3. Imagination – the belief that you can accomplish a range of scenarios.

Seligman’s research finds that when you are faced with events you can’t control, you become stagnant and passive.

But when you believe you have agency, your mental state changes. You are able to challenge your thinking about feeling stuck so that you can come up with innovative ideas. You become resilient when you see that you can make a positive difference. 

Through agency you can find meaning, even in a mundane task you don’t enjoy, by understanding where it fits in the larger framework of your team or organization. Your values come to life. 

How might you recognize those things you can control in your life and work?

Take control of your work life in 5 steps

Of course, there are things you cannot control: a client’s response to your latest pitch, your boss’ mood, a power outage.

But here are five things that you can control right now that might boost your outlook at work.

  1. Your mindset.

    How do you show up every day?  You can influence those around you in a positive manner immediately through your enthusiasm and consistency.

  2. The effort you exert.

    How intentional are you in your interactions, completing your assignments, leading your team? Your actions speak volumes.

  3. How you treat others.

    When you’re faced with challenging colleagues, how do you respond? Being clear, empathetic, and direct changes the dynamic.

  4. Establish short and long-term goals.

    What’s on your agenda? The way you plan for each day and look ahead to your future gives shape to your purpose and meaning.

  5. Take care of yourself.

    Are you giving yourself the movement, nutritious foods, and rest you need? Fortifying yourself allows you to face the many things out of your control.

Check in with your team

When you are aligned with your values and focus on what is in your control, you perform better in every arena of your life. So how might you get your team to join you in this area of growth?

Here’s an exercise:

  1. Ask your team to identify their top five values.
  2. Using this table, ask team members to fill out how their values show up in their work and in their life.
  3. Have the team share what comes up for them as they express how they are living out their values.
  4. What values do team members have in common?

Purpose and meaning

When you have a clear direction of where you’re heading in life, your values shine through. You have purpose and meaning because you know what you want to achieve, and you are able to make decisions and take actions that are in line with what is most important to you.

Finding purpose and meaning in your work, whether you’re wrapping up a huge project or cleaning up someone else’s document, is a reflection of your values.

BetterUp is passionate about the intersection of meaning and purpose at work – and they’ve created a roadmap to more meaningful work.

You understand there is meaning in anything you do when you see yourself as part of a bigger, more complete, picture. It’s not just what you do, it’s who you are.

The next time you’re faced with a decision, consider your values. You’ll know exactly what to do.New call-to-action

Published April 12, 2021

Lois Melkonian

Better Up Fellow Coach, PCC, CBC

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