Do you know what has the greatest impact on your happiness at work? It’s not money. It isn’t even what you do all day. It’s your values.
Really. Values are what energize and motivate you. They’re things like: creativity, learning, independence, trust, honesty, humor. They’re less about what you think and all about how you feel. In fact, you might say that values are the emotional paycheck of the work we do.
So, how do you spot your values? Here are three easy ways: The first technique is called Flip it. Think of something that’s angered you recently, then ask why it makes you mad. Flip the answer and you have some of your values. For example, if waiting in a line for a long time recently upset you, you might think that whoever was responsible was inefficient and inconsiderate. Okay, flip “inefficient” and “inconsiderate” to their opposites and you can see how efficiency and politeness may well be two of your values.
The second way is to look at your heroes. Think of someone you admire. What kind of person did that person have to be to accomplish what they did? If someone comes to mind because he continually took risks in business, maybe risk is one of your values.
The final values-spotting trick is to yell “Fire!” Imagine coming home one night to find that your house is ablaze. The fire chief says your family and pets are safe, and that there’s time to rush in to save only one thing. What would you rescue and why? If you chose your photo album because the pictures inside reminded you of your family and friends, one value you have might be that of belonging or feeling connected.
Try these exercises several times and note your answers. Then, keep them in mind as you look at your work. For example, if you see that expression is a key value of yours, chances are you’ll enjoy yourself more in that sales job you’re thinking about instead of that other opening as a data analyst.
Values are part of who you are, so take on work that lets you express them. If you do that, then you can discover how to bring more of who you are to what you do. And once you do that, work will never be the same again.