The Courage to Live by Your Values

Posted by Sinead Millard
globe on papers

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are” Roy Disney

Much of the stress that we experience in life is due to the fact that we are making choices, pursuing actions and creating goals that are not congruent with what matters to us, our priorities, our values.

I wasn’t clear on what my values were, what was innately important to me, until my mid-20s. Even then, I rarely referred to my values when making decisions, instead I was driven by external forces, other people and societal norms.

On completing my Masters, I went to work for a global consumer goods company. At the time, I didn’t consider whether my values aligned with the company values. The company values were: Responsibility, Ownership, Entrepreneurship, Achievement and Partnership.

There was some alignment here, particularly with the first three, but my highest values were missing “Making a difference/Creating Meaningful Impact” and “Health” and perhaps, why I eventually left the company, albeit many years on!

Knowing what I know today, it would have helped if I had understood where exactly my values aligned/misaligned with the company values, shedding some light on why I sometimes felt frustrated and stressed.

Simply understanding what values are not being met is key to either changing your environment or changing your perception of it.

Let me explain the latter by way of example.

In my later years of working with the company, I began to realise that despite some discord between my personal and work values, indirectly these higher values were being met.

I had the resources to fulfil some of highest values through attending some amazing retreats, personal development workshops, as well as living and working in the wonderful city of New York. Also, my work was directly fulfilling my need for responsibility, ownership and achievement. As a young graduate, starting out I had the freedom to succeed quickly. I learnt not to wait to be told, to own my ideas and take the initiative to drive them forward. I had the opportunity to work with some of the smartest and ambitious people I’ve ever met.

As I started to shift my perception of the situation and get clear on how my work was fulfilling my highest values I felt less stressed.

Eventually I decided that it was time to fulfil all of my values more directly and that’s when I made the decision to leave.

Dr John Demartini, in his book The Values Factor, encourages people to do what is highest on their priority list or temporarily link what they are doing to what they love – that is, change your perception.

Key take-aways:

  1. Every human being has a set of priorities. What’s important to you, may not be important to me and vice versa.
  2. When we identify what we innately care about, what deeply matters to us and we set goals and take actions that align with these values, life becomes more fulfilling.
  3. We are more willing to embrace challenges – to endure both pain and pleasure – when the action/the goal is in line with our values.
  4. In contrast, when our actions are not congruent with our highest performing values we experience stress, we lack focus, motivation and we are far less likely to embrace the natural combination of pain and pleasure that comes with any task.
  5. Stress is feedback. Seek information from the stress. It is attempting to help you become more authentic.
  6. Either change your action or change your perception of it (i.e. get clear on how it might be indirectly fulfilling a value).
  7. Be careful not to confuse values with social idealisms (integrity, trust etc) vs. values (researching, teaching, writing etc) .
  8. Remember our values constantly evolve (for example my family values have evolved since having children). Keep checking-in to ensure your actions are in line with what matters.
  9. There is no one-way to get clear on your highest values. There are many online tests out there – try a few! Here’s the link to the Dr Demartini’s test and Barrett Value Centre to get you started.

Lastly, grab a pen and paper and answer some questions to begin thinking about what matters to you:

  1. What is currently causing you stress in life? (reflect on the different areas such as work/relationship/health or certain tasks such as blogging, exercising, cooking etc)
  2. What is it about this area/task that is causing you stress? Can you delegate, stop, or change your perception of the task?
  3. Write down the traits and behaviours that you respect and do not respect in other people (feel free to bring more than one person to mind)
  4. What drives you nuts, REALLY nuts? (the opposite of this is likely an indication of something you value).
  5. Where does motivation comes easily to you?

Our lives are constantly demonstrating what matters to us most. The old saying “actions speak louder than words”is perfect here.

Look at your life with a little more curiosity today, see what it tells you.

Let's Connect.

Get in Touch

Connect with me via email or social media for career clarity.

Enquire via email


Sign up to receive advice, coaching insights and courageous career tips to your email.