My good friend, hairstylist Deborah Knight, and I often laugh about an idea she came up with for evaluating potential online dating candidates. She says, “I wish I could just ask them for their credit rating, type of car they drive, and BMI (body mass index).”
Even though Deborah was joking, she tapped into a powerful concept: What can you ask to decipher values? A credit rating might provide insight into your values concerning money, financial security, or meeting personal obligations. The car you drive might point to values such as status, environmental concerns, or thriftiness. A BMI might indicate values around self-concept, fitness, or health. (In an interesting twist, women claimed in a recent poll that they prefer the “dad bod” over the chiseled muscular body, because it probably means the man is spending more time with his family than hours at the gym improving his image. The poll demonstrates that a person’s fitness level may reflect values.)
Dating prowess aside, the reason this values conversation is so important is because one of the best ways to experience an optimal Motivational Outlook is to align tasks and goals with deeply held values. The problem is that too many of us have not consciously developed our values. This means we are operating on programmed values — unexamined values based on our upbringing or experiences in our generational cohort (thus the whole issue of different generations having different values).
A developed value is more powerful than a programmed value. A developed value is freely chosen from among alternatives, prized and cherished, and acted upon over time. Values are beliefs that guide our decisions, help us determine what is right or wrong, and define what is good or bad for us. When we operate from programmed values, it is easy to lack commitment and hard to provide an effective rationale for or defend our actions, decisions, position, or stand on an issue.
Here is a little exercise: Make a list of five to ten of your general life values.
Now check out the veracity of the values you have just stated, using two questions:
- How do you spend your money?
- How do you spend your time?
With these two questions, you can determine if the values you claim are developed values that are fully functioning in your life.
For example, you say…
- “I value family.” Yet, you work 90 hours a week, often choosing business meetings and calls over family events.
- “I value compassion.” How much money and/or time do you donate to charitable causes? How do the money and time you spend reflect your value for compassion?
- “I value financial freedom.” However, you spend money spontaneously rather than adhering to a budget or investing for the future.
- “I value success.” But you have never defined what success means to you, and so failed to spend money or time effectively.
- “I value health.” You bought a gym membership, but you never use it. Maybe you think you have a value around health, but it is an espoused value, not a developed one. A fully developed value for health guides your decision-making. As you are standing in line at the Starbucks, gazing at the high calorie sugar scones, muffins, and coffee cakes, your developed value for health guides your decision to get the banana or Spinach Feta Wrap instead.
- “I value sharing my thoughts through social media.” But, you spend more time playing Candy Crush than responding to queries on LinkedIn.
In the Spectrum of Motivation model, the aligned Motivational Outlook is one of the three most optimal outlooks. From this outlook, you experience positive energy, vitality, and well-being that feels so good, you want more of it. Research indicates that the more you experience optimal motivation and a sense of well-being, the more you want to continue experiencing it.
Aligning goals with values is a powerful way to shift from a suboptimal to an optimal Motivational Outlook. However, this means you need to have deeply held values. The good news? Values are chosen and developed, so you can fully explore and define them. Start now by asking yourself two questions: How and where do I spend my money? How and where do I spend my time?
I would love your insight for an upcoming blog: How would you adapt the two questions in this blog to reveal your top values at work?