4 Times When Values Matter Most

Values—it’s a topic that gets plenty of attention. Blog articles and YouTube videos tell you how important it is to define and live by your core values.

This video talks about four situations where I found values to be particularly important.

They include:

—Building your personal brand
—Defining goals
—Accepting and quitting jobs
—Leading organizations

Your values define the person you want to be.

You can find internet articles listing 50 or 100 values. There’s a link to one of these lists in the video description. And what you do with this list is select the 3, 5, or 10 of them that really resonate with you. And then you ask yourself questions to test their true importance, like would you compromise on this value for $1,000,000?

For example, here’s a list of my personal values:

—Fitness (both physical and mental)

I’ll refer to this list later in the article.

So here’s the critical question. So what? How are you going to use values to drive progress in your life?

Well, the quick answer is that you use values to make decisions.

So let’s get back to the four situations I mentioned before.

#1. Your personal brand.

Your personal brand is a fundamental way you interact with the world. A brand is a promise of value. For example, suppose you’re traveling and find yourself in the food court of an airport looking for something to eat. In that case, you will likely choose a restaurant you recognize. Why? Because you know the brand and know what to expect, for better or worse.

Personal branding is the same. You create the promise of value for people in different areas of your life. By knowing what to expect, they are more likely to choose you when you want them to.

For example, suppose you have an excellent personal brand at work. In that case, you are more likely to win a promotion over others with weaker brands competing for the same position.

When developing your personal brand, you need to consider all the different aspects that define you. Your values are essential to the brand-building exercise because they represent who you want to be in the world.

You’ll want to get serious about your values when you get serious about your personal brand.

#2. Choosing a goal.

People talk so much about goals. It’s easy to obsess over goal-setting without taking the time to step back and put it into context.

Have you ever found goal-setting difficult because you had so many options? Choosing one specific, well-defined goal is hard work. And sticking with it isn’t any easier.

So when you think about setting goals, where do you start?

You guessed it—start with your values. Write down different possible goals, and rate and prioritize them based on the extent they resonate with your values.

You’re more likely to stick with goals that resonate with your values. You persist because they mean something to you. And you also increase your likelihood of achieving these goals because other people are more likely to work with you on them. People see that your goals align with who you are as a person. And this authenticity makes you a more attractive and persuasive collaborator.

So consider using values to define and collaborate in achieving your goals.

3. Accepting and quitting jobs.

Here’s a personal story.

I received a job offer six or seven years ago to work as a director in the mergers & acquisitions group of one of the world’s biggest beer companies. It was a good offer. It paid a lot of money, included an attractive stock options package, and was based in a world-class city.

I turned it down because it didn’t align with my values. Two of my core values—as I mentioned before—are fitness (both physical and mental) and self-development. And I don’t think that alcohol is healthy or helps people grow.

When I took the time to reflect on it, I couldn’t imagine working in the alcoholic beverage industry because it went against my core values.

So why did I even bother applying for the job in the first place? Well, I was looking to move from Brazil back to the US. And I knew that they would like my skills and experience. It was my plan B. Fortunately, I received another job offer.

Would I have compromised my values had I not received another offer? Honestly? Maybe.

Values often come into play when you’re quitting jobs as well.

Companies do an excellent job at appearing impressive when recruiting talent. They talk about how meritocratic they are, the exciting opportunities for advancement, or how much they embrace their work-hard-play-hard culture.

When interviewing with them, it’s challenging to uncover that they’re actually nepotistic, offer promotions that simply inflate titles, and have an unfun culture.

You have at least a couple of options when you find yourself in a job that doesn’t resonate with your values. One is to look for another job. And a second is to keep searching for some sort of value alignment in that current job. If you can find just one such aspect, you at least buy yourself some time and avoid feeling stuck and miserable.

And you need to be realistic about money. Some people say if you compromise on your values for money, they aren’t really values. But that’s a little extreme. Of course, you’re going to have a higher tolerance for stuff you disagree with if you’re making $10 million a year.

More often, you need to keep the lights on and put food on the table. So, don’t judge yourself too harshly.

Values and jobs aren’t black and white. You need to use good judgment and avoid jumping to conclusions.

#4. Leading an organization.

When you start a company or other organization, you can choose the culture. It’s challenging work to build and maintain a culture. But it’s profoundly satisfying to grow an organization that aligns with your values.

Here’s the trick, though. When you lead an organization, everyone who works there is watching you. Whatever weaknesses or character flaws you have soon become apparent to everyone, whether you like it or not. On the other hand, your values become one of your most potent tools to motivate people.

This effect grows with your organization. Job candidates often accept offers when organizational values resonate with them. And this phenomenon is critical to allowing employees to make decisions quickly and independently.

As an organizational leader, if you want to empower your employees to make intelligent decisions that benefit the organization, you need to be crystal clear about the organization’s values.

This clarity makes your organization more dynamic and agile.

There’s no limit to the number of ways that values come into play in your life. But these four situations provide concrete examples of how they can impact your career. Take the time to figure out your values, reflect on them, and practice putting them into reality through value-based decision-making.