Personal and Professional Values

What do you value in life, and how does that come across in your work? The values we hold close to us don’t force us to do anything. But personal and professional values impact how we feel when we act.

Sometimes guilt and shame are motivated by cultural factors. But often those feelings actually come from not acting in accordance with our values. If you value financial security, you may feel icky when splurging on a nice outfit – even though you know you can afford it. If you value honesty, lying may feel uncomfortable, even if you think it’s right in the moment.

How do values come up in our personal and professional lives?

Personal values

I recently undertook Brené Brown’s values exercise (see pages 16-17). Brené suggests to begin by circling as many words as feels appropriate. Over time though, you need to select the two that encompass your values. For Brené, that meant realizing that “family” is central to her, but the value behind it is “faith”. For me, it meant realizing that I love “adventure” but in reality I seek “connection”. When I adventure alone I take a journal with me, and take photographs to share. I am constantly looking for connection.

Once you identify your values you can make conscious choices to align with them. You can find the language to share your values with others, and ask others to do the exercise and share their values with you.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been asking friends, family, and coworkers to share their values with me. It helps me to know where they’re coming from and understand them better.

Professional values

One of my favorite take-aways from Dare to Lead (Brené Brown’s book) was learning that personal and professional values are one and the same. What you value in your personal life will affect how you act in the work place as well as (if you’re privileged enough to have a choice) the jobs you seek out.

My personal values are connection and usefulness. As a content strategist in healthcare I feed these values. I struggle to work on projects that don’t feel useful, and I’m less motivated when I work alone for too long.

I believe an organization’s values are also impacted by the values of the people who work there. A company can’t call themselves eco-friendly if the individuals in the company don’t make choices that are in fact eco-friendly. The organization’s values can come from the top, as an announcement, but they won’t hold up unless they are compatible with the values of the people who work there.

Find your values

What are your values? How do they affect your work? I can’t recommend Brené Brown’s work highly enough. The exercise is available to everyone and can only provide benefit.

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