How to find you Essential Values at Work

Creating between family, work, and personal fulfillment isn’t easy. But it can be simple.

Here is the difference between easy and simple:

  • Easy requires very little effort
  • Simple means clearly understood

The Create Balance Cycle starts off with a very simple task:

Figure out what your values are.

Now, anyone who does this work will tell you that, while their ultimate list of values may be simple, developing it is rarely easy. The work of uncovering the values we’re actually living is challenging. Consciously deciding what essential values we want to live difficult emotionally taxing work. But the results are a simple and elegant list of values that give your life direction and purpose.

Essential Values are the few, truly essential values that direct your time, energy, focus, and attention in daily life. They are not the goals and aspirations you think you “should” have. They are the actual values that keep you strong, connected to the world, and make you whole. They are the values that keep you present, grateful, and allow you to manage challenges gracefully.

Deciding on essential values is a simple, but not easy, process. And often, people focus on their values in their home and family life, and neglect the importance of values in other areas of their life. But it is not enough to just define these values for your home and family life. You must also define them for your work and for your personal fulfillment. And figuring out values for work can be especially tricky.

Why not just figure out my essential values for home and family?

Most of the parents I work with understand the importance of developing a list of essential values for their home and family life. They can see the possibility of shifting their focus from a messy house to sitting down for a family dinner, or from watching more TV to making time for a “date night” with their spouse.

But figuring out their essential values at work can be more tricky.

Often at work we feel:

  • A lack of control of our priorities
  • A lack of control over our time

No matter your role at work, you will probably have a supervisor or a team that tells you what you need to do, and possibly how to do it. From that perspective it can seem unproductive to figure out your values for your work, since you will always have someone guiding you at best and micromangaing you at worst.

But it is precisely when we feel the most micromanaged and powerless, that we need to identify our essential values and tap into them to find fulfillment, growth and joy in our work.

When you are feeling micromanaged or powerless at work, or even just despondent and drained at the idea of another meeting or facing the daily grind, it’s time to stop and wonder:

“What do I like about my job?”

Of course for some of you, your first reaction might be “nothing.” Some of you might say that you used to like your job more, but you feel like you aren’t really focused on it as much as you would like, or that you aren’t able to engage with the parts you love as much these days.

But let’s push pass these “nothing” or negative thoughts right now and do an exercise to figure out some or your essential values at work. Pull out some paper (or open a document, or use the back of that random agenda from last week’s meeting).

Step 1: I want you to describe all the parts of your work day when you experienced the following:

  • Interested or curious about someting
  • Productive and/or accomplished
  • Connected to other people
  • Useful or valuable
  • Proud

Step 2: Rank those moments in order of most valued (the ones that you appreciate the most, whether they were enjoyable, or even a bit of a struggle at the time)

Step 3: Rank these moments in order of most frequent to least frequent

Step 4: Here is my last question: What could you do today to make your most valued moments start to rise to the top of your frequency list?

  • Could you make a point to step out of your office/cubical to chat with a colleague for five minutes?
  • Could you shut your door, or put up a do-not-disturb sign to work for 30 minutes uninterrupted?
  • Could you save your email until the afternoon so that it doesn’t overwhelm you in the morning?

Making the shift to truly living our essential values in work or at home takes more time than doing this exercise will take. But you can’t even begin making that shift until you know what you actually value at work. By the end of this exercise, you should have a working list of values: the actions, interactions, and truths that you find meaningful at work, even at the times when going to work doesn’t feel particularly meaningful.

As you continue to think about those values at work, and how they affect your choices:

  • Revisit your working list of values often
  • Refine it as you go to work this week and next.
  • Start to notice (and record) how many times you are actually doing the things you value.
  • Start to notice what other moments are meaningful (even if they aren’t happy or joyful). Add those moments to your list.

A funny thing will start to happen when you go through this process. The more you look for meaning, the more you will find it. The more you find, the more you will be able to define what you value you at work. From there you can start to figure out how to maximize the time you spend on the things that matter and minimize the rest. And that is the essence of a balanced life.

Engage with the Create Balance community! We want to know what you value most in your work life! Leave a comment below and share one of your favorite work moments! You never know who you might inspire . . .

Don’t forget: the Create Balance Newsletter goes out every Monday, chock full of practical tools, inspiration, and the little extra dose of love that your Monday morning needs. Sign-up today!

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