Know Your Values: The Key to Great Decisions and Positive Motivation

I am a big believer in the importance of knowing your values and aligning your life in order to honor those values. 

What are values?  Quite simply, the principles by which you live your life: authenticity, courage, fun, relationships, personal growth, service or spirituality.   Each person has a unique set of these principles that define you and tell you what is truly important to you. In effect, values are the essence of who you really are: i.e., the core to your authenticity.

To find your values, jot down the principles that you hold near and dear to you.  (You can get a copy of my values assessment tool by clicking here and joining my email newsletter list). See if you can come up with your top 10 values and then narrow the list down to your top 5. If you have done this exercise before, try it again and see if your values have evolved in some way.  As we grow and change, this is often reflected in our values. I can tell you that in my own personal growth, creativity, authenticity and autonomy are values that I did not even know that I had when I graduated from law school.  And the more I grow, the more deeply felt these values are to me and the more I strive to bring my life in alignment with them.

Why are your values such a critical component of your authentic success?

Because knowing your values can put you on the right track by helping you to make the right decisions, as well as provide you with a source of positive motivation.  

Great Decision-making

By knowing your top core values, you can begin to filter choices and make decisions that reflect your heartfelt principles.  In fact, great decisions often reflect our top values.  And on the flip side, decisions that leave you with a pit in your stomach often mean that you were ignoring your top values.

Think about the times in your life when you faced a big decision:  going to graduate school, moving to another city, getting married, taking your first job.  Many people struggle trying to make the “perfect” decision.  Often, had they thought about the values at stake in the decision and choosing the option that honored their top values, they would have had a much easier time.  Read my recent blog post on great decisions vs. difficult decisions where I share the experience of a large group of graduate students and how their important life decisions reflected their values.  The ones who honored their values felt great about their decisions.  Those who ignored their values felt a pit in their stomachs and a great deal of stress.

Values as a Positive Motivator

The other reason for knowing your values is to help provide motivation from a positive source.  

If you make decisions based on your values, you are creating a sustainable foundation from which you can draw upon in the future.  Each time you make a great decision, think about what values were at stake and how you arrived at the decision.  Consider how confident you felt when you honored your values in making that decision.  Celebrate that decision!  And remember those values and your confidence the next time you are faced with an important decision.  It will help you to build upon your past successes. This, in turn, reinforces your confidence in yourself and your gifts.

And learn from those “bad” decisions.  If you extract the learning and consider what values you did not honor, chances are that you will do things differently the next time.  In that light, your earlier decision really was not a bad decision because you learned so much from that experience.  Again, it is a way to use values as a positive motivator.  

Many people think that the best way to get things done is to come from a place of fear.  The belief is that without the fear, they will not get their work done.  It gives them an adrenaline rush and then they scurry to get things done.

Yes, as a motivator, fear can get you “results” but there is a lot of negativity associated with it. Because fear as a motivator takes its toll on you.  It creates enormous stress. Each time you approach a task with fear as your motivator, it is as if you have to start anew.  Instead of building on your successes, all you remember is the stress and the fear.    You can read more about why fear does not work as well as values for motivating great performances by professional musicians.

So next time you are faced with tough choices, reflect on your values and see how you can use them as a positive motivator to get you closer to the success that you are looking to achieve!



© Astrid Baumgardner 2011



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Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success.  In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and  Personal Branding and Networking.  She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.