Integrating your values (with integrity)

Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on your values, rather than personal gain – Unknown

Last week I wrote about understanding and defining your core values. This week I want to discuss how you integrate your values into your life. I said that defining and understanding your values would help you make decisions – but how?

By understanding what is important to you then you can best choose how you spend your time and invest your energy. It is so easy to fall into a trap of pootling about and not being consistent with living our values. For example, taking care of yourself might be important to you. You might embark on a training programme to increase your fitness or lose weight. It might start well but then taper off as the nights draw in. Or one day you are productive and the other day completely unproductive. As you can imagine this doesn’t give us the best results.

I said that our values act as an internal navigation guide to keep us on our path so that each day we can choose to act in a way that allows us to lead our ‘best’ life – the one we really want. By recognising your values you can create and design what your ‘best’ life might look like. Remember that life is a continuum and so as you move towards your goal you will see/make gradual changes to stay on track. I am not suggesting that you make a huge change…although if you want to then that’s a choice too.

Using your values to make decisions

One of the reasons I call myself a transitions coach is that we all have transitions to make in our lives; some bigger than others. Perhaps you are considering a career move or spending more time with your family? There is no right or wrong answer to either of these options and so the decision making can be tough.

The values list you created from last week’s article can be used as a shortcut at the crossroads you’re facing. You use them to ask yourself:

What would a person with these values do in this situation?

or you might want to simply go down the list and see which of the outcomes meets your values best.

Let’s take a common careers example:

You have been offered a job promotion, it will shift your work weeks from 40 hours to 60 hours but double your salary. Should you take it?

If you have values such as success and achievement and they are near or at the top of your list, you’ll probably say yes. However, if freedom and family are at the top, you’ll likely decline the promotion. As you can see, once you are clear on your values the hard work is done. Each decision can be made by comparing your values. In our scenario, if the promotion equates to increased success but reduced peace of mind, then you can compare those values to make the best choice for you.

Of course, this will have some limitations, every decision-making process has its limits. Ultimately your goal is to fulfil your highest values without sacrificing them to lower values…or even non-values.

What about when your values change?

If your values change then you may need to realign them with the parts of your life where there is discord or a clash of some kind. Ask yourself where there is misalignment and what you need to do to realign and re-integrate your values.

You might choose to adapt a situation, say working flexibly to fit your work around your family and still take the promotion or you may choose to remove yourself from the situation and start afresh – perhaps looking at another role.

When your values shift or change doing an audit across all areas of your life is a good idea – so if you are working for a company whose values are (now) not compatible with yours then you may want to consider your options to adapt or start afresh.

Either of those two options keeps your integrity intact as you are acting based on your values still, not from a place of personal gain. Whilst it is possible to live with your values in misalignment it does tend to end in tears (as my mum would say!)

Creating congruence between your values and your life

When you think about your values it’s worth choosing activities which create congruence between them and your life. Consider which activities you have a passion for, which bring you joy. Also which ones cause you to feel completely engaged and connected with. This connection can only occur when your values and life are in sync.

Living your life according to your values needn’t mean throwing away your ‘old’ life and starting anew. The reality is that few of us can dramatically alter our lives such as quitting their jobs to become a potter. You can, however, make meaningful change(s) in your life that will allow you to align your values and life and find happiness. Through emphasising and committing to activities, experience and people that express your values and creating balance in your life.

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