My values

Written 2 years ago

I recently came across a great article by Julian Shapiro on taking the time to re-evaluate where you're going in life, and ensuring your daily actions and choices actually align with your "big picture" values, and are moving you closer to the life you hope to create for yourself.

Not only was the article wonderfully written and interesting, but the topic itself is one I've dedicated a lot of time to throughout the years.

My journey so far

I've had a pretty unusual life, with very little of the environment that shapes most people's lives. I never went to college or university. I spent a decade of my teens and early twenties travelling with my family, making very few social connections. I've lived the majority of my life in countries where the native language is not my own. All in all I've had very little outside influence to guide my life; it's been up to me to figure it out.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself thinking over where I've come from, and where I'm going. I've just wrapped up 2 years spent as the unofficial technical cofounder of a startup that concluded, unceremoniously, when we ran out of funding. During that time I also became the proud father to an incredible little boy. Add that to the pandemic and the massive impact that had on all of our lives, and the last 2 years have been pretty "full on".

Now I have the time to reflect, I'm taking stock of where I find myself and asking the big questions again. The answers have evolved quite a bit since I last thought of them.

So... what are my values?

It's not a simple question. But, taking Julian's suggestions and framework, I've ended up with 5 values that I'm pretty confident are what drive me in my career.

Your career or your life

I noticed in Julian's article that he actually refers to these values as his personal values, governing his entire life (and not just his work). My gut tells me there's some subtle difference between life values and career values, but I can't quite articulate what it is. Perhaps your life values are simply a wider set of values that encompass those for your career. Perhaps they're one and the same.

In any case, these are my values. Definitely regarding my career, but maybe also my life in general.

#1 - Growth

Am I growing myself and my skills, in the ways I care about? Personal growth has taken me from the verge of living on the street to a life of great comfort and security. The more I grow, the better my life gets, and I have no plans to stop growing.

#2 - Effectiveness

Am I tackling the most important problem with my time and energy? I've realized that I need to be working on the core issue a business or project is facing. I'd rather face the challenge of learning an entirely new skillset than be working on a non-mission critcal task while the thing that will kill the endeavor is left unsolved.

#3 - Discovery

Am I encountering new experiences and doing new things? There's so much in the world I have yet to see, and learn, and enjoy. I rate pretty highly on openness, and love to expand my boundaries and my mind.

#4 - Connection

Am I meeting and engaging with people that I respect and want to learn from? Throughout my career I've come to greatly value integrity in colleagues. I look for people that strive to be better, no matter where they are now, and those that look to answer the deeper questions in life.

#5 - Independence

Am I making progress towards being financially self-reliant? I don't aspire to own mansions or fancy cars (well, maybe one or two...), but I do aspire to the freedom that comes with financial wealth. True freedom is no longer sacrificing today for tomorrow, and despite that scenario holding a fair amount of dread for me (what would you do if money was no longer a driving force in your life?), it is a something I hope to achieve in my life.

What about you?

What drives your choices in your life and work? I highly recommend spending the time to figure it out. Not just once, but at the pivotal moments in your life. The moments when you're asking why things aren't going the way you want, or when they really are, and you've climbed your latest mountain and don't know where to go next (sometimes that's the harder question to answer).

After all, what's the point of driving forward if you aren't sure of where you're going?

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