As I navigate my career and personal growth, I find it helpful to self-assess what’s important to me. For organizations, having values is a key way to assess how a team is doing and what is important. Ninety percent of companies have core value statements designed to align their teams to the organization’s shared purpose. Values include statements like, “working hard as a team” and “continuous improvement” and often vary from company-to-company. While the values themselves might change, the goal is the same: to align an organization to statements to inspire and help them continue to focus.
While I work at a great organization that has strong values, it was time to evaluate what I believe in at a personal level. The goal of doing this exercise was to provide myself a guidepost for making decisions on what projects I take on and how I spend my time.
A few years back, Jessica Williams, Founder of Tech Biz Gurl, did a brainstorm to see where her values aligned. She found that they were focused on impact. “I knew something needed to change and so for me, that meant I needed to either find a role that allowed me to also do good and make an impact. That impact piece became a huge value of mine. And that led me to look for roles where I was able to make an impact and still grow my side hustle. It also is a big part of why I say yes to certain speaking and volunteer opportunities and no to others.”
Nicole Yeary, Founder of Ms. Tech, created her value statements when she transitioned to entrepreneurship. She refers to her values as her “High 5” and they are the statements she uses to base making decisions on. “My values are, Show Up, Team Up, Zero In, Just Jump, and Jump Again,” Nicole said. “The key to finding your own personal value statements starts with zeroing in on your mission.”
How To Get Started
To get started with your own value statements, think about the work you find most rewarding. Make a list of accomplishments and events that make you feel fulfilled. For me, this included starting a parent program at work, helping others navigate their careers, and taking up writing again. I tend to focus on specific accomplishments (e.g., creating a process for reintegrating parents back to work). If you are struggling to identify specifics, it may be helpful to start with broader language. “Helping others” can be a broader statement that will help to eventually pinpoint what it is that you enjoy.
After you make a list of around 10-15 items, look at your list and reflect on themes. Ask yourself: Which of the items can be bucketed together? Try to narrow your list down to 6-8 themes.
Once you have your themes, create a vision statement for each one. For example, one of my themes was “time with family.” One of my examples is how great I feel when I spend time with my son, husband, and immediate family members. Based on this theme and example, my value statement for family is, “prioritize and celebrate family time.” Remember, this exercise is completely flexible to your personal preference, so you can have as many or few values as you’d like.
Get Them On Paper
People that write down goals are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to stick to them. Whether that be your phone background, your desk, or on paper, seeing your goals will help you to keep focus. Similar to your goals, getting your values on paper will keep them top of mind. Canva and PicMonkey are tools that allow you to get creative with a design without needing expensive software.
Share Them With Others
At any point in the values exercise, don’t hesitate to reach out to those in your trusted circle for perspective. Giving others in your life visibility into what is important to you will help them understand how to support you best. Prioritizing my value statements (i.e., time with family) made it easier for me to turn down invitations to events and opportunities that did not move me closer to achieving my goal.
Put Them In Practice
The next time you are trying to decide on taking on a project, or navigating a step in your career, look to your values. These should help you determine whether a decision is in alignment with what you believe. If you find they are not helping with decisions, it might be a good time to re-evaluate them.
Whatever path you decide to go down with your values, the best thing to do is start trying. “Be confident in your framework (vision, mission, values), but then jump!“ Nicole Yeary added. “Choose something that resonates with you – that you will have an impact with. Notice what happens when you channel that power.”