I believe if you ask most people, they would feel like they know their values. I wonder how many they could name them quickly. Do they know the order of their values? Could they explain why they have those values. Could they explain how their values impact their lives? Today, in the information age, there are so many inputs and options that if you simply follow the passion of the moment you can end up in a place you would never have intentionally gone. When you encounter an opportunity, do you have a way of quickly assessing it? When you have many things to do, do you have a benchmark to order them by?
When my son turned 19 he was struggling to find his place. I found out that he didn’t really want to go to college. Through our talk I discovered that he was floundering to find focus in college. He didn’t have a direction in life so working hard at college didn’t have an immediate enough payback. He got a job at a comic book store and considered going to college sometime in the future.
I was frustrated because I was in a position to hire people and I have to filter through many resumes and in one of the first passes we remove all the ones without degrees. It’s just a way to weed down the resumes to a manageable number. I decided to go back to college and get a degree for just this reason. I had a good job making good money but in a down financial climate an extra edge is good to have. I had to get my transcripts from the first time I went to college to apply again and it turned out I had forgotten that my GPA was 1.6 (D+). It was only that high because I got 1 A for rehearsal when I did costuming for a play which I got paid for. Memories of that time flooded back. I was enjoying being young and fee but I had no direction. The many options in life just seemed a lump of equally boring opportunities.
How did I break out of the young adult doldrums? Well, I had a child. Half way through my second semester of college I found out I was going to be a father. It wasn’t planned. I was actually relieved to leave college and get a real job, and job. That started a twenty year career in the hospitality industry and software development where I passed away time and followed my abilities and took advantage of random opportunities.
Now I’m about to turn 40 and I look back over an amazingly lucky life. My focus had been to provide for my son but now that he is mostly self sufficient I began to think about what I want to do when I grow up. I’m having a mid life awakening.
So, do you have to know your values? No. Would it have helped? I believe so. I found a great book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh – CEO of Zappos.com. It’s a personal story of how Tony struggles with his own passions and discovered how to be happy. It also has great information on the study of happiness.
This book also had some great online resources including a link to a great way to discover your core values with the Mountains and Valleys exercise from Culture Sync. I went through the exercise but I also put my own spin on it. I worked for a large company that had 6 core values but they were each one word. I found that a single work tends to sound too vague to get a picture in your mind. Also, we all really value food, shelter, and companionship but we probably wouldn’t name these in a list of values. These are just what you value but also should be the values that make you unique or bind you to a group. They should define who you are and who you want to be. Your values can change over time so It would be good to schedule some time on your calendar to revisit them.
Here is what I came up with this time.
- Intentional Universal Love
- Eloquent Exhaustive Paced Cooperative Continuous Information
- Solve Real Problems
- Automate the Boring
I plan on using these to judge who I work for and how I spend my free time
What are your values?
How have they impacted your life?
Have you see any other good practices for focusing your life?