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The power of value-driven decision making

How do you make decisions when you are under pressure? How do you prioritise what needs immediate attention and what can wait? But these stressful situations cause us discomfort. We most often let discomfort drive our choices and behaviours.

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How do you make decisions when you are under pressure? How do you prioritise what needs immediate attention and what can wait? If you reflect, every stressful situation, be it work or family, is most often temporary. But these stressful situations cause us discomfort. We most often let discomfort drive our choices and behaviours.

Some of my bad choices have been driven from a place to ease discomfort. For instance, when I first moved to Dublin, it was hard to find a job that matched my qualifications and experience. It made me feel unsalable. When a fancy position in a tech startup presented itself, I took it up without examining whether our values aligned. The leadership team were total chancers and often made sexist remarks. An example of an out-of-line remark made, ‘We have a woman of colour, so we better get the funding.’

Another familiar scenario is when we experience the discomfort of not being liked, we say yes to everything and everyone. We struggle to set boundaries and stop being a people pleaser.

We say yes to bad choices that our rational, reflective mind would say no. When we let discomfort drive our decisions, we make excuses saying ‘just this once’ even when we are aware that it’s not good for our well-being. Think back to a time when you worked late and missed a commitment you made to a family member.

On making better work-life choices.

Our unhappiness is most often directed to our inability to manage work and life. Our inability to manage work and life is often a result of bad work-life choices.

A very effective way to make better work-life choices is to design your life aligned to your core values. Values and behaviour go hand in hand. Our upbringing, culture, experiences, relationships, education and wider social network influence our values.

I’d ask you to take some time to quickly think about your personal values. If you can note it down even better. Now think of the last choice you made concerning your work or life. Was that choice based on your values?

We often go through life without paying much attention to the choices we make. We almost function in auto-pilot mode. Especially when it comes to our daily routine. We might have our personal values engrained in our minds. The question is how often do those values translate into behaviour or drive our work-life decisions. We could just be moving from one task to the next without considering whether our actions reflect our core values.

A recipe for regret is never taking the time to reflect on your core values. You tend to make decisions based on whatever information is available to you or whatever discomfort you want to ease. It might work out short term.

Our life is a concoction of complexities. Personal and professional. Life does not present us with all or perfect information we need to make the right choice. The default assumption is that we need more knowledge or research to make the right choice. But that’s not realistic. Choices we make come with some degree of constraint. It could be time, financial resources, or information. Why base our choices on constraints that are beyond our control? Why not base it on the core values that are defined by us?

Choosing constraints that can be controlled internally helps us make better choices. You can match your actions to your beliefs by narrowing your options to the ones that align with your values. For that, we need to first define our core values.

On clearly defining our core values.

Lack of clarity means you never feel settled or certain concerning your personal or professional life. If you don’t know what you stand for or where you’re headed, then it’s far too easy to get distracted, to waste your time doing something you don’t need to be doing, or make exceptions that lead to emotional burnout.

The process starts by clearly defining your core values. We might have our own way of arriving at our core values. It doesn’t matter how you define it. What’s important is that you have mechanisms in place to keep a check that you actually live your life aligned to your values. If you haven’t taken time out to focus on your values you can start now. And when I say now, I mean right now.

1. Make a list of the values you hold. This might help you with the list.

2. Choose 3-5 values that are most important

3. Think of the last choice you made. One professional (if you are working) and one personal.

4. Check to see if they were aligned with your values. If not, write down what you could have done differently to have them aligned.

On creating structure

You can follow a more structured way of doing this exercise. We all know the importance of having structure, a plan, a strategy. But most often we never take the time to create one when it comes to our lives. We just let life happen. When is the last time you thought about your values ? and wrote them down? and clarified them?

Some of us might find this kinda exercise foolishly idealistic. Some of us just haven’t considered it as we don’t know how to do it. A good structure is a combination of reflection, definition and evaluation.

Integrity reports:
James Clear creates Integrity reports for himself. This way he creates some sort of social accountability. You can adapt his methodology to your own life.

Reflective Journaling:
The science-based practice of Reflective-Journaling helps you define your core values. A periodical practice (daily, weekly etc) allows you to evaluate your life in relation to your core values. You can learn about Reflective Journaling by trying our free masterclass.

Whatever method you choose I’ll be happy as far as you adopt a method that disciplines you to live and work in alignment with our values. By doing so you will be able to achieve a healthy work-life blend.

Values can conflict with each other

Our values can conflict with each other when it comes to work-life choices. It occurs when we have two values that are important to us but they conflict with each other. This might result in reducing fulfilment in both areas of our life.

We see this often when our personal values conflict with our professional values. Let’s say you value doing meaningful work and stability for your family. You want to quit your job and work as a freelancer. This way you can choose projects that are meaningful to you. However, this might mean giving up on stability for your family. What do you do when your values conflict?

It’s time to have an honest conversation with yourself. You can do this by following a simple five step process that’s really helped me when my values conflict with each other. The most recent being my values as an entrepreneur versus a new mom.

Describe
Describe your situation by writing it down. Include all details as possible. Include your emotions, feelings and motivations.

Highlight
Highlight values that conflict with each other. Highlight positives and negatives of each value.

Identify
Identify if any new values surface with your new situation. In the above example, if you choose to quit your job and become a freelancer you also value flexibility and financial freedom in the future. They get added to your list of core values.

Examine
Examine your new values and see if they make it to the top 5 of your value list.

Decide
Let your new values drive your decisions. This doesn’t mean you ignore your old values. You just add or replace new values to your core value mix.

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy Disney

 

Tiny tips

1. Make

Make a list of the values you hold.

2. Choose

Choose 3-5 values that are most important

3. Think

Think of the last choice you made. One professional (if you are working) and one personal.

4. Check

Check to see if they were aligned with your values. If not, write down what you could have done differently to have them aligned. 



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