Updated: Jul 7, 2020
The secret ingredient for some steadfast courage...
What Are Values and How Can They Bring Me Courage?
What are values? What do they mean to you? Naturally, introverts may be more attuned to their values, yet recognizing our own values and aligning our behavior is critical for each of us, regardless of our personality.
Values are those tenets that we live by. Consciously and subconsciously they guide our behaviors and our decisions. Our values tend to be tried and true. They are consistent...over the years, with various people and settings (family, social, work), whether others are watching or we are all alone.
Like many parts of ourselves, values are largely formed in our early childhood, from our parents and siblings, close friends, or traumatic events. We may not remember when or how some of our values were established, but they've become bedrocks of our behavior.
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Values are a Gift
Values tend to be a source of pride and conviction when they provide needed courage to tackle life's challenging situations, but may also be a source of guilt and shame if we fail to align our behavior with our own values. We often face difficult conversations, decisions, or challenges in life. I find that if I take some time to pause, step back, and consider how my values guide me, an answer often percolates to the top. On the other hand, violations of my own values are the things that keep me up at night, wracked with guilt and disappointment. While none of us are perfect, making amends and realigning with my core tenets always gets me back on track.
Values sprout courage...provid[ing] that background to make tough decisions easy...
I find values to be especially helpful when navigating strange waters. Earlier this year as I tried to decipher the dozens of recommendations regarding how to publish and market my book, I found myself overwhelmed and often tempted by the energetic salesperson with self-proclaimed credentials. But as I tried to implement some of their tactics I found myself confused and unhappy. I had not filtered these recommendations through my own values. When I did, I was able to discard those methods that were not consistent with my values and a clearer path became obvious.
Discovering Your Own Values
Each of our values is our own. My set of values is uniquely mine. There are not really "right" or "wrong" values, but someone else's values wouldn't fit me any more than mine fit them. We do tend to congregate around others who have similar values as our own. Hanging with those with starkly contrasting values wouldn't be pleasant or bearable for long.
So how do we list our values? First, only you can identify your own values. You may use an online list to help prompt you, but our values come from within. I ask myself these questions:
What drives my choices when no one is looking?
What drives those hundreds of decisions I make subconsciously every day?
What drives those choices regardless of people or settings?
What drives decisions we are happy with?
What drives regret or remorse - perhaps when we didn't listen to certain values?
What behaviors have been consistent for years and decades?
What values would you never violate, even if you had to make huge sacrifices (whether that is money, job, power, happiness)?
The Mind Tools Content Team provides additional tips through their article What Are Your Values? Deciding What's Most Important in Life and the following video:
My Values Give Me Courage
I recently found a quiet corner and contemplated my own values:
Family First- this remains my priority. I would sacrifice everything for my family. When this value was compromised as I traveled 50% of the time as an Ex-Pat in London, my entire life and self-confidence were in tatters.
Dignity- I strive to be honest and respectful with others and seek the same from them. I myself violated this tenant when I was a kid and let me frail, somewhat demented grandmother take the fall when I ate an entire pie from the fridge. I remember that scene in detail, now over forty years later. It has driven my vow of honesty and even more so, my need to speak my truth or opinion, no matter how unpopular it may be. Late in my career, I found that my new manager refused to respect the experience and opinions of myself and the rest of the team. That was her approach - be suspicious until proven otherwise. Yet that so conflicted with my values that I wore my frustration on my sleeve. We never really worked well together and after a miserable year, I posted out to find comfort in a new role.
Dependable- there's probably a story or two from my childhood that engrained this belief in me. I feel it is critical to be reliable. So I document my goals and commitments. I incessantly plan my course to achieve such commitments. I work hard to deliver on my commitments. And I expect the same from others. I do recognize this breeds inflexibility in myself, but I think "our word is our bond."