The word “authenticity” gets used a lot these days. But what does it really mean to be authentic or true to yourself?
One powerful way to live an authentic life is by living your values.
When you identify your core values – the beliefs and principles you want to live by – then they become a guide and a filter for all decisions in your life. Career, relationships, family, community – you have an opportunity to build these aspects of your life in alignment with the values you want to live by.
Identifying and working to live in congruence with your values is a great way to focus as you head into a new year!
Why Values Matter
“It’s not hard to make decisions, once you know what your values are.” ~ Roy E. Disney
Whether you realize it or not, you make hundreds and maybe thousands of decisions every day. When to get up, what to wear, how you talk to your partner/spouse, how you interact with your children, what to eat, what to write in that email – decisions happen moment by moment.
But recognize – the decisions you make are a reflection of your values and beliefs.
So if you aren’t intentional about what your values are and seek to live by them, you might become surprised by what your decisions are actually expressing in terms of your values.
If, on the other hand, you can use your values to make decisions, you then have the opportunity to be deliberate as you choose to focus on what is most important to you.
Identify Your Values
“Your core values are the deeply held beliefs that authentically describe your soul.” ~ John C. Maxwell
It may be obvious, but in order to live a value-based life, you must first identify your values.
If you don’t, your values will get lost in all of our many distractions, self-talk, to-do lists, and the day-to-day tasks you need to get done.
So write them down!
When you put pen to paper (or type them out), you are making them explicit, thus separating them from the thoughts in your head. You make them important in your life!
You’ll then want to keep them somewhere you can see them frequently. Put the list on your bathroom mirror, in the front cover of your journal, near your desk, or anywhere else you will see them again and again. Writing them down and then forgetting them doesn’t do you any good either!
Live in Congruence
“Peace of mind comes when your life is in harmony with true principles and values and in no other way.” ~ Stephen Covey
Once your values are identified, it’s now time to live them. I love using the word “congruence” to describe this.
You may remember from middle school geometry that congruence means that two geometric properties like angle, side length, or other are equal.
One dictionary definition of congruence is “agreement or harmony; compatibility.”
As stated in the quote by Dr. Covey, when you are in agreement, harmony, or living a life compatible with your values, you can have peace of mind.
Much of our distress comes when we are out of alignment with our values.
If I state that I want to tell the truth but I lie to my wife about something, I’m out of congruence. There then becomes a tension internally that will grow and fester. I’m not at peace.
If I state that I want to have an impact on those I interact with, but treat my relationships transactionally just to get something out of them, then my impact will be limited and I will be dissatisfied with my progress.
Growth, peace, and success come when you live in congruence with your values.
Recommit When Necessary
The likelihood that you will live in congruence with your values 100% of the time is… low. Probably zero.
And that’s okay. All is not lost. You can recommit and continue forward.
Identifying when you are out of alignment is a good thing! It means that you can then do something about it.
Take a step back and consider what led to you going against your stated value. What happened? What was the situation? What were your thoughts or beliefs that led you to do it?
You can then make a plan to take further action to build your commitment to your values.
For example, if you have a value of Service, you might look for a volunteer activity to do in your community to help with a cause you care about.
To use my example above, if I lie to my wife about something, I can recommit and come back and tell the truth. That might be a difficult discussion, but it will get me back in alignment and have peace of mind again.
We all stumble and fall at times – stay committed, identify adjustments and actions you can take, and keep working on living your values!
Sharing My Values
One way to increase accountability and motivation to live your values is to share them! So I will share my values with you.
To help me remember them, I organized my values into an acronym – GIFTS.
Each of these words has a certain definition that is important to me. What these words mean to you might mean something different.
But that’s the power of identifying and defining your own values – they have personal meaning, and that’s what gives them power in your life.
Take Ambitious Action
If you have never done this, please take the time to make your values explicit.
I recommend creating a short list of 3-5. Probably a maximum of seven. Too many and you get lost in what they are and what they mean.
You might make a larger list, then slowly reduce the size until you have a few that really describe the core of who you are and who you are committed to become.
Once you have your values identified, write short definitions for each of them. Definitions that are meaningful to you.
To refine further, you may consider sharing your values with people who are close to you and know you well. See what they think, and ask for examples or ways that you live these values today.
Once you feel good about your list, place them somewhere you are reminded of them, and use them daily to inform your many decisions in life!
Need some Help?
If you are struggling to identify or live in congruence with values that matter to you, you’re not alone! Many engineers never take the time to think about these things, and it can be hard to do without some help and further guidance.
As a free resource, you may appreciate the Engineer’s Career Clarity Checklist – a set of insights, resources, and activities that can help you identify your values and get clarity on what is most important in your life and career! You can go grab it here: https://www.engineeringcareeraccelerator.com/career-clarity
Additionally, if you’re ready to accelerate your career and leadership further and want some help doing it, here are a few ways I can help when you’re ready:
- Watch a FREE Engineering Career Masterclass – the 4 Keys to Intentional Engineering Career Transitions
- Enroll in the Engineering Career Accelerator – the exact system that hundreds of engineers have used to go from confused to thriving in their careers.
- Schedule a free call with me to talk about getting personalized 1:1 and group support on your goals.
Here’s to a great end to 2022 and a wonderful start to 2023!