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Do You Know What Your Values Are?
Here is my weekly email with some insights and ideas pulled from conversations I had on my podcast.
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Do You Know What Your Values Are?
How would you feel if I told you that making business-related decisions doesn’t have to be hard? What if I said that, in reality, it can be as simple as knowing your values?
Having strong values is something I take pretty seriously, but in a subconscious way. I hadn’t given the concept much thought until my interview with ex-Amazon-employee-turned-entrepreneur, Sarah Gibbons.
Values, as it turns out, can mean the difference between success and failure in business. Those with strong values have a clear advantage over those who don’t because they know what they stand for. This allows them to make better decisions, faster — and they’re less likely to waiver when things get tough.
Today’s newsletter is going to be a brief but powerful one. Let’s talk about the importance of values in business and how you can use them to make better decisions.
Sarah Gibbons’ Take on Values
I interviewed Sarah on the Success Story Podcast about a year ago now, and it was one of the most value-packed (pun intended) interviews I’ve ever done. We only spoke for about 40 minutes, which is much shorter than my usual shtick — but in that time, we talked about:
Sarah’s pivot from the corporate world to entrepreneurship,
The true meaning of fulfillment in business and how it relates to growth,
Knowing your values and sticking to them,
Spiritual psychology and how to stop yourself from getting triggered, and
Other important lessons for entrepreneurs.
If any of that appeals to you, I’d highly recommend checking out the interview. It was one of my favorites to do.
But for the purposes of today’s newsletter, I want to focus on something Sarah said towards the beginning about values:
“Once you get clear on your values and you define them on your terms, then you have a very different experience.”
Let’s dig into exactly what Sarah means by this.
From Corporate Work to Values-Based Leadership
If you saw the interview, you know that Sarah had an incredibly interesting start to her career. She worked for Amazon’s IMDB division for a while, and then she was asked to join MySpace (now News Corp). Can you imagine being part of that team in the early days?
As many of us have experienced, though, Sarah soon grew tired of the corporate ‘way’; the ladder climbing, the high stress, and the constant grind. She was in search of a new type of fulfillment — and again, like many of us, she found it in entrepreneurship.
“I became apparent that I did not want to go back into digital media. The part that I loved was always hearing people’s stories, but also getting into people’s leadership and really helping them see what’s possible beyond what they were currently doing. I ended up started my coaching business, and with a lot of trial and error, ended up where I am now.”
Where Is She Now?
Sarah is actually something called a spiritual psychologist; she coaches leaders who have become so focused on their success, they’ve neglected their personal happiness, growth, and fulfillment. What an incredible role to play in someone’s life.
“When I got my masters in spiritual psychology, it started to introduce to me a way of leading that used practical tools — particularly around communication — that helped me realize the way in which fulfillment works is through exponential growth, not through doing things on a horizontal line.”
It was through her training that Sarah began to see just how important it is to connect with, and be in alignment with, your core values.
“I started to ask, what does it mean to live from my values? What does it mean to really connect with my own intuition, and start to make choices that honor what I want, versus these expectations that I had for myself based on parental and societal influence?”
Sarah’s training helped her to reach many pivotal realizations about her business, her life, and her way of perceiving the world.
“I can create what I want — as long as I get clear, and I’m paying attention to my mindset and my intention, and I’m taking action. What I know to be true is that, then, the universe will meet you at the point of action.”
Nowadays, Sarah coaches her clients to really get in touch with their core selves and align everything else accordingly. It’s a highly values-based approach that helps people make the right decisions — not based on expectations, but on their highest-held beliefs.
“I now teach my clients around communication leadership, and so they’re having very similar experiences. Many of them are staying in their current roles, but they’re experiencing a level of fulfillment and impact that they didn’t think was possible.”
Where Do Values Come In?
I was excited to ask Sarah about her views on core values, because it’s a topic that I’m incredibly fascinated by. What role do our values play in our lives, and how do they shape the way we live and work?
Values Shape Your Perceptions
“Think about leadership as ‘who you be informs what you do’. So if you are disgruntled, overwhelmed and anxious on the inside, then as you are doing whatever it is you need to do, that’s the experience you’re going to have.”
This was Sarah’s insight: values shape the way in which you see and experience the world. If one of your values is compassion, then you’re going to be more likely to see the world through a compassionate lens.
I find this so powerful because it means that we can actually change the way we experience life. What if I were to change from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance? Would I then start to see more opportunities?
Sarah believes that the answer is yes; her experience has been that, when clients shift to define and live by their values, they start to see different results in their businesses and lives.
Values Influence Your Attitude
“One of my top values is connection. So as I’m moving throughout the day, I’m asking myself, ‘What value does this align with? Is this in accordance with my values?’ That’s a very different experience than ‘What should I be doing?’”
On a similar vein to the point above, Sarah believes that our values influence our attitude. If we’re constantly questioning whether our actions are in line with our values, we’re going to approach life — and work — very differently.
For instance, if my top value is freedom, then I’m going to be very aware of anything that constrains my freedom. This might manifest in the way I work — perhaps I’ll only take on projects that allow me to work from home, or maybe I’ll start my own business so that I can set my own hours.
If I value honesty and transparency, I’m going to be much more likely to build relationships based on those values. I might avoid working with companies that have a history of misleading their customers, or I might make an effort to be open and honest in all my interactions.
Values Help You Understand Yourself
More than anything, your values are a clear indication of the person you are — because values are, at their core, what you believe in.
“One of the best ways to get really clear on who you are is to define your values. Everyone has a round 5–7 values; once you get clear on your values and you define them on your terms, then you have a very different experience.”
Sarah explained that most of her clients insist they know exactly what their values are. After a bit of digging, though, she soon realizes they’re not clear on what their values actually are at all.
For instance, they’ll list “family” as a value — but when Sarah probes a little further, she realizes that what they really value is connection. Or they might say “success” — but what they really mean is freedom.
So, how can we overcome this obstacle? How can we make sure that we’re clear on our values?
Defining Your Values as an Entrepreneur
According to MindTools, your values are the beliefs that determine what your priorities are. They’re not simply ‘I try to be nice to people’ or ‘I believe in the afterlife’ — they go much deeper than that.
Some values are personal (like honesty or courage), while others are more universal (like fairness or respect). You might have values that guide your personal life, and different ones that shape the way you work.
As an entrepreneur, it’s especially important to be clear on your values. After all, you’re the one in charge — which means that your values will have a direct impact on your business.
So, how can you go about defining your values? I had a look at Sarah’s handy ten-minute guide to finding out exactly where your needle points. Here’s what I took away from it:
1. Find a list of values.
There are plenty of resources for this on the internet; MindTools has one, and you can see Sarah’s list in her downloadable guide here. The point of looking at a mega-list like this is to help you start thinking about the values that might be important to you.
It’s also interesting to see what counts as a value, and what doesn’t. For instance, I would have never considered ‘beauty’ to be a value — and I thought that ‘financial wealth’ would be included, but it’s not.
Here are some of my personal favorites from Sarah’s list:
Study the list, and start making a note of the values that stand out to you. I really enjoyed this first step because it made me take the time to consider what I actually value, rather than vaguely understanding myself.
2. Narrow it down to your top 10 values.
This is a bit harder than it sounds, but Sarah has a great tip: “You’ll know when you hit it because you’ll feel it in your gut; you may have memories, feel inspired, or feel a connection.”
What Sarah actually recommends is to create five core values instead of ten basic values. For instance, if you value kindness, empathy, and love, you might group those under a core value — ‘compassion’ — which would be one of your five.
What this does is it makes you think harder about what each value means to you. It’s harder than you think to draw connections between values, but don’t overthink it. Your gut will tell you more than your brain ever could.
3. Define each value on your own terms.
This is the part where you get to be creative; turn those core values into mini definitions and principles to live by.
For instance, if one of your values is ‘compassion’, you might say: “I practice compassion by being understanding and kind, even when it’s difficult.” Or if your value is ‘growth’, you might say: “I commit to continuous learning and self-improvement.”
Sarah also recommends answering a few questions to help with the process:
How might this value shape the decisions you make today?
Which value do you live in the most, and what does that look like for you?
Which value do you live in least? How can you re-define it so that it feels more natural for you?
From there, it’s simply a matter of getting super familiar with those definitions. Maybe you read through them as part of your morning routine, or post them on your vision board.
Either way, the idea is to keep those values top-of-mind, so that you can make decisions based on them in your day-to-day.
Where Your Values Will Take You
My interview with Sarah was such a wholesome one, and it really got me thinking about how our values shape the way we live. But what’s interesting is that, as entrepreneurs, our values will also shape the businesses we build. And that makes them crucial to success.
In fact, studies have shown that values-based decision-making leads to better business outcomes. It makes sense, really; if every decision is based on the values that are most important to you, then you’re more likely to end up in a place that feels good — both for you and for your business.
Of course, that’s not to say that every decision will be easy, or that there won’t be trade-offs. But if you know your values, and you’re clear on what they mean to you, then those decisions will get a lot easier.
Sarah says it best:
“It allows people to feel so much more empowered. Get clear on your values, define them, and you’ll be amazed at the different kinds of results you get both in the workplace and at home.”
Don’t forget to check out Sarah’s full interview here, and I’ll see you next week!
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Thank you for reading,