How Your Values Guide You

Our values define what matters to us. They help us set boundaries. They give us clarity on what to say yes or no to.

Let me tell you a story about what that means.  About a year ago, I gave my risk-averse self permission to quit a job I loved to start a business. My guiding values were authenticity, meaning, and family. Even though I was in a job I loved, I wasn’t near my family and that was starting to drain me. But going to where my family is - upstate New York - had a lot of implications for the kind of job I might be able to find, and nothing I saw allowed me the opportunity to both be my authentic self and do meaningful work. So the natural conclusion was that it was time to say yes to a start-up life so that I could be fulfilled professionally and move closer to my family at the same time. Now here I am, a year in, and not once have I looked back, because I’m deeply living my values.

How do you use your values to guide you?

Figuring out and applying your values is both simple and huge at the same time. Here’s a quick four-step process to follow.

  1. Discover: First things first, you gotta identify what your most important values are. Everyone has different values that are most important and that’s good. What’s critical is you find the ones that speak to you.

  2. Define: Reflect on and define what those values mean to you. Success means a lot of things to a lot of people. So do Meaning or Courage or Authenticity. They’re all big words, and you have to know what they mean for you.

  3. Set Boundaries: Examine what those values indicate for what you should say yes or no to in your life. This is where the boundaries come in. What do you need to add to or eliminate from your life if you’re going to have Family as a value? What about if you chose Generosity?

  4. Rinse and repeat: As your life changes, as you get older, as the world around you shifts, your most important values may change. What matters to you will evolve. For me, in my twenties, what was important was collecting experiences. Now in my thirties, I’m more interested in building something that will last. Clearly that has huge implications on the kinds of opportunities I will go after or shy away from.

What are your values? What do they mean for what you say yes or no to?

Kara Davidson, co-founder, wolf & heron