Values Clarification Guide

What are my Values?

It's something of a divine act to choose one's Values — one's ultimate priorities in life — because by their very nature, your Values cannot be chosen for you; they are the deepest principles by which you genuinely wish to live. Our Values define who we wish to be and the sacrifices we are willing to make in the pursuit of that which truly matters to us, personally.

Put simply, your Values are the things which matter more to you than anything else in the universe, and they describe the kind of person you want to be.

While the clarification of one's Values is a critical step, it's not enough to simply know what your Values are. The real challenge begins after our Values are clear; when we begin the lifelong practice of bringing our behavior into alignment with our deepest priorities. What good is it to know your Values if you do not embody them with your actions?

Why should I care about embodying my Values?

When our Values and actions do not align, we move away from things that matter to us. We rob ourselves of a sense of purpose and a life worth living, and we cause great suffering for ourselves and others.

However, when we see our Values clearly and align our actions accordingly, we begin moving toward what matters and are rewarded with the vibrance of a life with direction, meaning, and purpose.

Beware, that sometimes, moving toward ones Values can also be painful, but when done with the spirit of your Values, it becomes a noble and worthwhile pain.

At the end of the day, your Values describe the person you want to be, the kind of life you want to experience, and the impact you wish to make on others during your brief existence. If you spend your time wandering from your path, you may miss out on a deep and meaningful journey.

What are Team Values?

While Values only really exist at the level of the individual, a team of people working together toward a common goal must collectively agree on the fundamental assumptions about how the team must behave in order to succeed.

These assumptions are what we call Team Values, and if these assumptions are effective, the more team-member behavior aligns with the Team Values, the greater a team's ability to create momentum and increase the probability of success.

For example, say your team runs a dog shelter; you may have a Team Value to create a calm and joyful environment based on the assumption that such an environment is most likely to result in more adoptions than an environment that is chaotic, where dogs are stressed and prospective families feel too anxious to connect with the dogs.

Everyone on the team must be clear about the Team Values, why they matter to the overall mission, what takes priority, and how they can align their behavior with the Team Values in order to accelerate progress toward the goal.

How do I go about identifying my personal and team Values?

Clarify your personal values, first:

Start with your personal values by taking 5 minutes to write down whatever comes up as you read through the following questions:

  • When you look out at the world, what breaks your heart? Why does this move you? Your answer will reveal a Value.
  • What currently frustrates you in life and work? We can only be frustrated by something we care about, and if we care, then it's connected to a Value. Pain and Values are two sides of the same coin; look for pain and try to see what is on the other side that matters to you.
  • What kind of leader do you want to be?
  • What kind of mentor do you want to be?
  • What kind of environment do you want to create for the people around you?
  • What kind of people do you want to be around?
  • What would you want people to line up to thank you for at the end of your life?
  • What do you admire in others?
  • What is your most painful experience? What kind of person do you want to be as a result?

Keep going until you notice a pattern, then choose 4-6 items that feel the most important to you, in this moment. Don't worry if you're not sure whether these things are Values, it takes time to refine one's list. The smaller the number, the more you can focus your transformation.

Clarify your team values:

Now, if you are working in a team, go from person to person and share your Values. It's not unusual to notice yourself beginning to see familiar faces in a new light. Look for commonalities and consider focusing the team around the Values that the group shares — Even if there is only one.

Next, dig into all of your assumptions about what your team must prioritize in order to succeed. This may require some in-depth conversation and perhaps even passionate debate. Be sure to fully explore all of the assumptions in earnest with the goal of getting buy-in from the entire team about what matters for the success of the team.

Over time, old assumptions will be challenged by new information and new team members. Be open to these conversations because getting your fundamental strategic assumptions right is critical to your team's success; if your assumptions about how to succeed are wrong, it won't matter how well you implement them.

As you explore your values, there will be a point where you settle into a greater sense of clarity about yourself, your team, and your mission. Notice how this feels. In particular, notice how it compares to feeling aimless, distracted, and wandering.

Congratulations — you have just completed the first critical step in the process of becoming a Valchemist.

How do I stay on the right path?

The hardest part about living in harmony with our values, is that we will constantly fall short. Unfortunately, our own human nature works against us in many ways, and while this is frustrating, it's important to recognize this as simply part of the human experience. What is important is to continue returning to your values, especially once you notice that you've drifted off-course.

We have evolved many hedonistic drives which organize our behavior to avoid immediate pain and pursue immediate pleasure. These actions often move us away from our Values, which by comparison often require us to sacrifice those short-term gains and endure discomfort today for the promise of future progress. The two are at odds, and hedonism is more often the victor when values are not kept in constant focus.

One way to counteract this problem is to artificially increase the short-term reward for behaving in alignment with our Values. By supplementing the Values-consistent behavior with more immediate rewards, we make the Values-consistent behavior more attractive to our hedonistic drives, so that it can better compete with the undesirable behavior that only serves our immediate urges — precisely what the Valchemy Behavioral Engine was designed for.

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