How I Found My Values

Too often we do what we are supposed to do – or we do what the people around us are doing. We lose sight of what our own values are amongst the noise of life and what people are doing around us.

I like to think of my values as my compass that I use to navigate on my journey.

But as I’ve moved through my career it’s been hard for me to separate my own values from those of the groups around me.

You may struggle with the same problem I have.

This problem is normal. We are human and feel a healthy need to belong to a group or something larger than ourselves.

What I’m describing is a feeling of belongingness. This feeling exists across cultures, languages and genders. This sense or need to belong is based in evolution. It was much safer and easier for our ancestors to survive in groups than it was to survive alone.

Throughout our lives we become part of different communities and groups. We start with our parents and our family and then move to school, first job, activities, profession and finally new groups of friends, jobs and connections throughout our twenties, thirties and on.

Each of these groups have their own shared values.

Deciding our own values are important when we decide to move to another group, shape our lives or find ourselves stuck.

How I began to notice my values. 

At the age of 25 I realized how affected I was by the people I chose to be around.

When Stephen and I started working on UnStuckable together I was an employee at a startup. Stephen had been working on his own for 10 years and he was one of the first people in my work life that had different values than my startup friends.

I remember one day at HubSpot. I was on call number fifty something and I called Stephen from work at 2:00 in the afternoon. He was blueberry picking. I was jealous.

Sometimes Stephen would ask me: “How do you want to work?”- or more specifically: “What are your values?”

I didn’t know how to answer him.

I was jealous of his sense of self and core values.

When I really thought about my values I would get lost. I would compare myself to people around me and search to find examples of people I wanted to be like.

I remember being frustrated having to decide what my values are.

I would think of my value in terms of – What did I want?

There is an easier way to define what your values are.

Look back to find your values.

Values are principles or standards of behavior. They’re what you use to make judgments of what is important and what is not important in your life.

Like most people my early values came from home.  Until I was 18 I lived with my parents and their values. I learned what was important from my mother, father and friends.

I went away to college and a year in, I quit to chase my dream of racing bikes.

Looking back, that decision was an expression of my values. I did not value predictability.

I valued something else more than predictability.

After a year of racing bikes I noticed my values were different than my friends I left behind.

The values I practiced in cycling propelled me into work and later fueled me through 8 years of working on awesome teams in startups.

List your proud moments and then write why.

A lot of other authors and writers will give you a bunch of questions to find your values. They will give you a giant list of value terms to choose from. This will just confuse you and force you to pick off some other person’s list of values.

I suggest you take an easier first step to define what you value. 

  • Step 1 – List what you are proud of.
  • Take a break.
  • Step 2 – For each item you are proud of write why you are proud of that action or moment.

For example you may write:

  • Proud thing: I am proud of my marriage.
  • Reason: I am proud of my marriage because of my commitment I’ve made.
  • You value commitment. 

The first thing I did was think of the things I was most proud of doing just like I showed above.

Then I privately wrote down why that action made me proud.

Your answers will be what you value.