C-Suite Agenda

How to identify your personal values to drive your success

Mark Carter

Having worked now for over 20 years in the field of people and behaviour it’s become crystal clear how important values are. They are at the heart of all decision-making and actions. Which is why it’s worth reflecting whether we are consciously steering our conscience into praxis: the alignment of daily practice from merely ideas or theory.

It may seem a little cheesy, which goes well with onion, yet human beings, much like the vegetable, are multi layered. Peeling back the layers might also unleash tears. The first layer, the external one we usually reveal or see, is ‘how’ we prefer to function. Behavioural profiling tools, like DISC, help give clarity here. Yet they simply indicate a preference in function much like a computer operating system. We peel a little deeper to comprehend our motivations, or ‘why’:

  • Biological (if you’re hungry, you’ll eat!)
  • External motivation (salary, commissions or bribes for the kids!)
  • Internal motivation.

There is surely a correlation between the important internal driving fire and your values. Even then, our motivations may shift subtly like the earth crust over periods of time whilst values at the core remain in place. A third layer may be various intelligences: IQ and EQ. These are our ability to ‘do’, to put things into action. Again, whilst strongly to values, this layer isn’t a default explain all.

Human beings, in addition to being onions, are like icebergs. Water is the universal symbol for emotion and we spend our life submersed in feelings. Daniel Kahneman (behavioural economist, psychologist) was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2002 for proving how much of our decision making happens at the emotional, often subconscious, level. With this in mind, as bobbing break away lumps of ice, our belief systems also lay beneath the surface a result of E.E (Everything Else!): influences like environement, parenting or life events that sculpt us from formative years into the values driven mini adults of ‘who’ we actually become.

Provocations for your personal values

Peer into a mirror of self-reflection, you tasty looking onion you! Ask yourself some provocative questions or ponder simple tools, some detailed here, to discover real values. Do actions match words? We may well sing a fine sounding song about respecting the environment, yet if we accept every plastic bag, opt out of neutralising CO2 emissions or are repeat offending heavy food wastage or litterbugs, does that sound like a core value at all?

We might also join a fine choir championing causes to lend our voice to make a stand for. It’s worth asking, ‘why’? What’s the real motivation? We even have a badge-wearing sheriff of sorts, sifting through publicly expressed sentiments, to see if the underlying character is truly one’s position. Virtual signalling makes a phoney of our values, if we’re to get all Holden Caulfield, J.D Salinger, Catcher In The Rye, on the subject of it all.

Our anxieties and upsets may also be a clue. The things that frustrate the hell out of you: especially ones involving external situations or the actions of others. Just make sure, as an objective measure, the exasperations aren’t merely due to being a control freak, to have or get things our own way.

Discovering personal values requires strategies like this, we can bundle into a single concept: ‘face the mirror’.  It requires asking yourself better quality questions with a willingness to bear your soul to the mirror on the wall.

  • Assuming basic needs (shelter, safety, food, a sense of belonging are ticked boxes) what’s really important to you?
  • Who would you spend more time with, what would you invest more time doing and what do you choose to make a stand for?

We may even use base pre prepared values lists, given there’s no shortage of potential buzzwords. In doing so, just keep the other aforementioned ideas front of mind so as not to feel compelled or attached to the meaning of a single word. Take a deep breathe, which ones make your shoulders drop, feel like a tailored suit or like home?

Self reflection and moral worth

Through self-reflection we may tap into our praxis, slap a rudder on our berg and take hold of conscious values steerage. In doing so we’ll find the wisdom classic scholars alluded to: peace and greater success from better alignment in our worlds. The etymology of the word value itself has roots in Latin, Middle English and French.

Value: to be of worth: moral worth. Maybe use that as a final check.

5 Ways To Determine Your Values

  1. Identify traits you feel most passionate about. Additionally when you do this, consider which of these do you absolutely walk the talk. Where words and actions are completely aligned, there’s a strong chance values are at work.
  2. Snag a list of pre identified values, like an available online inventory, or download and blue sky recognise a longer list of your own. After doing so, work through it, a little like trying on a top end dress or suit. Which ones fit snug and feel most like you.
  3. Look at your world and identify the top 5 to 10 people you respect and admire. Identify traits in them that you respect. And within this you may also recognise similarities in themes. These are clues as to what you may value the most.
  4. Keep a deeper diary of self reflection for a period of time. Incorporate  things like what you are investing your time doing, what you are reading, who you elect to spend time with, the goals you are striving towards and the manner in which you’ll achieve them. Amidst these self reflections, facing the mirror, you’ll identify some values at play.
  5. What are the things in life that frustrate or upset you most. Think about social causes and community. Dig into these a little deeper and ask what it is about these that gets the emotions bubbling. There may be clues here that your values or being irritated.

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Mark Carter
Mark Carter is an international keynote speaker, trainer and coach. He has over 20 years’ experience as a global learning and development professional. His TEDxCasey talk ‘Paws and Effect: how teddy bears increase value perception was the movie trailer for his latest book Add Value. Mark Carter is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.