043: Defining Your Personal Values

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Your values drive every decision you make. Defining them helps you be more intentional on making decisions that line up with your values.

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00:00 Hello and welcome to Process, a podcast by Effective Remote Work. My name is Justin DiRose and today we’re talking about defining your personal values. Well, it’s 2020 now and we’ve been through the holiday season and now we’re thinking into the new year. So I figured today why not talk a little bit about what drives us to make the decisions that we do. See, a popular topic that we all tend to think about is goals and new year’s resolutions about this time, and I’m not a big fan of either of them, but when you boil it down to it, you make good new year’s resolutions, you make good goals, you have good aims in life based upon one thing, and that’s your personal values. And so today I wanted to talk a little bit about how you define them for yourself. But first let’s talk a little bit about what values are. Values are really the core ideals by which you make decisions.

00:53 These are the convictions which drive you forward in life. You don’t always have them defined, so to say, but you always act by them. For example, if you value family, you’re going to make decisions around how it affects your family. For example, I value my family and there’s been times in the last couple of years where I haven’t taken a job or I’ve changed jobs or I have not taken on a commitment in my schedule because it affects my family. It will take me away from my family or put too much of a burden on my family and I don’t want to lay it on their shoulders. And so I make decisions based upon how things affect my family. Now these values that you carry directly impact your health, wellness, goals, and day to day decisions. And having a good sense of your values will help you keep the broader aims that you have in life in check, making the whole system work better together.

01:49 So when we talk about your system and from the top to the bottom, we’re talking your values, we’re talking your longterm dreams, we’re talking the projects that you’re currently working on. We’re talking the day to day decisions you’re making, the habits that you’re building. Having a good sense of what your values are and defining those will help all of that work together from top to bottom. Now, the way I see it, there are two different kinds of values. There’s ones that are life sustaining and life stealing values. Now, a life sustaining value is something like honor, respect, or kindness, and the life stealing value is something like control, isolation, et cetera. Now, I don’t want to get too deep into what the life stealing values are, but there are some times things that we have latched onto that are not necessarily healthy for us to maintain, but they do directly influence the decisions that we’re making and life stealing values can look different in different seasons of life.

02:50 For example, pursuing business success might be life sustaining to you when you’re single or when you’re just out of college, but when you start to have a family, it might be something that steals life from you. It might be something that’s detrimental. Now, I do want you to keep in mind that if you have life stealing values, you’re not stuck with them. Instead, you can change the mindset behind them, the way you think to be able to change them. Because once you get into why you’re thinking about that, why you’re believing that, why you hold onto that so tightly, you can begin to think differently about it and therefore change the way you’re making decisions in your life. And this all starts by defining your values. So for example, one of my values is honesty. I always strive to be honest in my communication and my actions.

03:38 I try to be truthful and honest in everything that I do. I mean, I even bring small stuff back to the store that I forgot to pay for because otherwise it’d be dishonest for me not to. But it took me deciding that was a value of mine to realize that was the case for me to fully latch onto it. I had to spend a little bit of time reflecting on situations that have happened in my life, things that made me happy, things that made me sad, things that I regret and I realized that the things that hit me the most in those areas. One of those was honesty and so I wanted to walk through a little bit of a process that you can take to start to define values for yourself. The best way to start defining your values is to give yourself some space.

04:25 I would say take a couple of hours by yourself or with your spouse. You might need a little bit more time than that. You might need a little time spread across a few days, but if you’re married, it can be helpful benefit to do it together with your spouse and if you’re not, do it by yourself. When you’re married each of you in the relationship carries your own individual values, but it’s also helpful to define what your core values are together so that you can make decisions together based off of those values. Now when you first diving in in this session, it’s important to spend a little bit of time reflecting on the last five years or so. Specifically I recommend focusing on the major decisions, successes, and failures of the last five years. And you really want to dig into those and get to the bottom of what guided you in those situations.

05:16 What conflicted in those situations, what made you feel happy? What made you feel sad? What made you feel proud? Where did you feel shame or fear after making decisions in that timeframe? Because that can also signify a situation where your values might’ve been compromised. Like one time when I walked out of the store, speaking of honesty. I walked out of the store, had pop on the bottom of my cart, I put it in my trunk and I remember that I hadn’t paid for it and I drove off and I immediately felt this like regret in my stomach. So I mean I went back and paid for it. So it’s not like I actually stole it or anything like that, but there was just that little check mark inside that said, Hey, maybe you should think about this, but then it made me realize that I highly valued honesty later on in life when I was reflecting on that.

06:06 So when you’ve gone through this process and it might take you a little while to reflect on it, then you want to ultimately try to boil it down to five or so values and usually these values can be summed up in a few words and most often just a single word. Now in the show notes, I’ll provide a link to an article that has some great examples of words that you can use for personal values and I recommend taking a look at that, look at that list, look at what you have been reflecting on over the last couple of years and then try to match them up. What are the top five ones or so that are sticking out in that list to you? It’ll take a little bit of time and it’ll take some thought and if you’re stuck in this process, it might be helpful to talk to a friend who knows you well and reflect on this list and these memories with them.

06:59 They might be able to pull out some ideas for you from what they’ve seen you walk out and what decisions they’ve seen you make to be able to more closely align what those values actually are. As I mentioned, it might take a couple of sessions or some time to chew through this, but once you’ve defined what these values are, you’re empowered to make better decisions. Now, once you’ve defined these values, how do you ultimately apply them? That’s the kicker here. If you’ve defined these and you never do anything with them are they really all that much of value to you? Well you do still make decisions based off of your values, but as I mentioned before, if you’ve got stuff that tends to be a little bit more negative, you can switch that around to be a more positive thing by being intentional about the decisions that you’re making by using the values that you’re choosing to live by.

07:51 So one thing you can do is to reflect on these values regularly. A good time might be in your weekly review or if you’re doing a daily journaling session, looking at them, just read over them briefly so they’re top of mind when you’re reflecting on things throughout the day. When you’re reflecting on the decisions of the week and the decisions that you need to make in the next upcoming week. It just keeps them there so you can remember what they are and make decisions off of them more easily. Then when you’re faced with decisions, it’s important to be intentional and review those values and make sure that the decision that you have on your plate lines up with them. So for example, if you’re a person who values fun and you’re offered a promotion, which is going to cause you to travel 30 weeks out of the year, consider if that decision lines up with your values.

08:43 If it doesn’t, clearly you’re probably not going to take that job even though it might offer you a significant pay raise, which is attractive as well. Now if you’re trying to change a value from something negative to something positive, you do need to retrain your brain to think differently. So one way you can do this, you need to take it another step a little bit deeper to start working through those thought processes that you have that are maybe holding you back from moving a little bit deeper into the value that you want to go toward. So start talking to yourself or even journaling about your values. It’s helpful to just start processing that out. What does it look like to live by that value? What might be holding me back or if you’re scared of something, define that because once you define what you’re scared of, it’s really easy to just recognize it and kind of ignore it in a lot of senses because fear in most oftentimes in our modern day society just kind of keeps us held back more than anything.

09:40 Another thing that you could do is fake it til you make it. Honestly. It’s a really weird thing to say, but if you’re trying to live in a way that you’re not used to living in, try living in it intentionally and you’re going to feel like a fraud by doing it first and foremost because it’s completely foreign to you, but as you begin to learn what it looks like to live that direction, live out that value, you’ll begin to adjust the way you think and the way you act and the decisions that you make as a result of that. And you might even find out in that process that value just does not jive with you even though it sounds like a good idea. It may be a priority, but it might be lower on the list than something else. It’s an exploration process really.

10:24 Additionally, if you’re looking to change some behaviors in your life too get some friends to hold you accountable and chat about it regularly, it’s not something to, you know, kind of shame you forward or push you forward. But it’s more of a, “Hey, this is who you decided that you want it to be and how you wanted to act this year. The decisions that you wanted to make. You want to come into alignment with this, you chose this. And so I’m here to help you try to stay on track with that and help you identify things that might be holding you back.” Also, it’s very important to focus on the positive here. Don’t focus on what you’re trying to break. Focus on what you’re trying to change to. Focusing on the negative will generally draw you right back towards it. But if you keep the picture in mind of the behaviors that you want to have, the outcome that you want to have, and ultimately the reason, the why behind it, it’ll be a lot easier to stay on track with that longterm.

11:17 So for example, with that I had to change a habit about my health. I had to change a value inside. I valued convenience and comfort and ease for a long time in my life. I used to eat out all the time, drink soda that was super sugary and all that stuff. I had a really bad diet. I didn’t exercise all that much, but one day I had to intentionally set myself and commit to the idea that I don’t do these things anymore, that I eat healthy and I take care of myself because I ultimately want to be around for my family because that’s a really big thing. Especially when you start to have longer term relationships and considering marriage. And with that, considering having children and building a family, you start to think in longer term timescales or you have to in the decisions that you’re making day to day.

12:07 And so when you have a bigger vision for the thing in your life that you’re trying to change at this core value level, it makes it a whole lot easier to make that change. When you, when you’ve got that big picture, you can tie an outcome to it and say, okay, I’m choosing to be healthy. I’m not just going to lose 20 pounds by the end of this year or by the time you know, beach season hits or something like that. It shifts it from this like short term process that happens and this accomplishment to this, I’m choosing to live in a new lifestyle. I’m choosing to live in a new mindset and a new way of thinking because that’s ultimately what’s going to lead to longterm transformation for people and longterm improvements in our lives. You can yo yo up and down all you want on your weight, but if you haven’t really addressed the mindsets that you have inside that are keeping you in that yo-yo up and down process, then you’re going to just stick there.

13:03 But if you have a vision to get healthy and you change the way you think about the decisions that you’re making, by redefining your personal values around it, it makes it a lot easier to move forward. So this whole process for me took quite a long while, but I was able to actually change my diet and to be quite a lot healthier by having that vision tied to the value that I wanted to change. Having your personal values defined and even the ones that you want to change and commit to in a different road for yourself is a good thing. It makes it a lot easier for you to make decisions about what you want to focus on for the year, what you want to focus on in a given day, and even when you’re faced with big decisions coming down the road, it makes making those decisions a heck of a lot easier too. I hope these tools are really helpful for you in trying to at least start that process. Again, it’s not a science to define your personal values, it’s, it’s just a process to try to dig in and figure out what drives you inside and if there’s things driving you inside that are not you are not who you want to be, ultimately, then you can choose to change that and it takes a little intentionality. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s totally possible. You’re never stuck in a spot. You can always choose to change.

14:26 Well, that’s all for this time. You can find a link to the transcript of this and other episodes in the show notes, or by signing up for a free account at our community at effectiveremotework.com. Subscribe to this podcast, and if you enjoyed it, give us a positive rating on your podcast player of choice. If you’re watching on YouTube, click the subscribe button and like this video if you enjoyed this episode. My name is Justin DiRose and join me next time on Process.

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It’s amazing to see how much my values has changed over the years (especially during major life events such as an illness or other activities such as getting married or having a child).

I’ve been using Day One to record my thoughts and values over the years. By using the “This Day On…” feature in Day One, I can look back on this day from last year, two years ago, and earlier to see what I was feeling that day. It’s interesting to read old journal entries and see how we’ve changed over the years. This is the biggest feature that has kept me on the Day One subscription. I underestimated this feature and thought it was a gimmick. But geez it’s a great gimmick! Journal review helps with reflecting on my personal values and redefine it when I do my annual review. To set a direction or define your personal values, you need to see where you’ve been.

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