“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters – Albert Einstein
Every day we are faced with countless small decisions. While each one individually is not critical, they do add up over time. However, it is not possible or logical to stop and consider each small decision prior to its execution. Therefore, we must rely on something else to help guide these decisions to ensure they are consistent with our overall mission in life, our character development and our progress toward achieving goals. This ‘something else’ is our values.
Our values are the set of attributes that we think are most important in our lives. They guide all aspects of our life, from major decisions such as a marriage partner or career to minor daily decisions. Values are usually developed when we are young, and they frame our world view and drive behavior. Some examples of values are trust, hopefulness, respect, altruism, security and integrity.
By clearly understanding your values and how they were formed, you will gain perspective on why you make certain decisions and gravitate toward certain people or circumstances, whether or not they are aligned with your long-term goals.
Understand and clarify your values through self-reflection, asking those whom you trust or using more structured analytical methods. There are many excellent tools available for this purpose, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Insights Discovery, etc.
Write your values down and then ask yourself these questions:
- Are these truly what I value most in my life?
- Is my life’s purpose aligned with these values?
- Are my actions aligned with these values?
- If so, how do I reinforce these actions daily?
- If not, how do I change my actions until they are aligned?
Once this exercise is complete, make a conscious effort each day to eliminate the actions and small behaviors that are inconsistent with your values. I have found it much easier to make changes to small daily behaviors than to large lifelong behaviors.
You may find the following examples useful:
- If you value trust and are a business leader, give an employee the benefit of the doubt more frequently, even it means there may be an occasional minor misstep or setback. This will become an opportunity for them to learn.
- If you value productivity, then lead by example rather than by always expecting it from others. Be the first person in the office in the morning and the last to leave at night
- If you value tolerance or respect, then give someone else the opportunity to state an opinion, particularly if it differs from your own, and let it stand.
These small daily actions and decisions will accumulate over a lifetime, helping you develop a set of values consistent with the achievement of your long-term goals, ultimately making progress enjoyable to pursue and easier to achieve
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.