Originally published on Inc.com.
Changing jobs. Buying or selling a house. Getting married or divorced.
Of course these are huge life decisions requiring thought, planning and effort. So you gather information, ponder, ask for advice and consider the options, hoping for the best.
For some, this is as far as it goes. For many, a decision can take months, even years. It can be terrifying to make a change you know needs to be made, but the fear of the unknown keeps you stuck.
So you justify not making the decision.
And you’re miserable.
You look for other ways to exist within the current situation but nothing seems to work. It’s human nature to be right, to stay with a decision, to MAKE it work.
But the truth is this: you cannot exist or lead well within a decision that is not in alignment with your personal values.
‘Values’ is a word many throw around lightly, yet values are the most important unconscious motivators that, when violated, create havoc in your life. When your values are violated, you will become angry, apathetic and even feel hopeless or stuck. You will feel uneasy and unsure of yourself and others, and life will seem difficult. When that happens, it’s time to take a long hard look at your situation and make some much needed changes.
1. Make a list of your values.
Ask yourself this question: “What’s important to me about (the situation you are faced with)? If you want to know your overall values, ask yourself “What’s important to me about my life?” This will reveal motivators such as freedom, family, wealth, intimacy, quality, acknowledgment, accomplishment, recognition, creativity and spirituality to name a few. There are hundreds of values–things that are important to you. There is no right or wrong way to determine your values. They are yours, and therefore you cannot be wrong about them.
Something to note: integrity is not a value. Integrity is how you carry out your values. If you have a high value of honesty and you see a wallet on the ground, what you do next is either with or without integrity. If you return the wallet intact, you have integrity and alignment with your value of honesty, and no matter your personal situation, you’ll feel good about your actions. If you don’t return it or take money from it, you will be out of alignment with your personal values and you will feel like you did something wrong. Other people who take the wallet and don’t have a high value of honesty may not feel the same.
Either way, we are not judging the situation here, just reviewing the motivation of the action.
2. Decide on your top three values.
These are the values you probably live by without even knowing it. Think about a time when things were going really well. Now compare that time to your top three values. Were you living those values? You probably were. While it may be difficult to admit what your top three values might be, understanding yourself and your motivation is going to come in very handy for the rest of your life.
Remember, there is no right or wrong about your values and motivators. They are simply a part of who you are.
3. Measure your decision against your top three values.
Take each one of your values and ask yourself “Does the (decision or situation you are in) align with value #1? Value #2? Value #3? Then answer that question with a definite yes or no. There is no “maybe” or “sort of”. This part is black and white. Be honest with yourself.
Once you have your top three values listed and have answered the question, you will have a decision making tool that is correct for you–no matter how difficult that decision might be. If you have all “Yes” answers or all “No” answers to the question, the decision is obvious. If you have a combination of answers, review your Yes and No positions. If you have a Yes in the #1 value position and No in the others, you may be able to adjust your situation. If you have a No in the #1 value position, something has to change as your situation is unsustainable. Your health, happiness and well being will suffer.
Consider a factory worker with a high value of freedom and variety. Day after day, he plugs away on someone else’s schedule. He is told when to come to work, when to go on break, lunch and when to leave. He does the same thing day after day. Do you think that person is fulfilled and living up to his potential? Of course not.
It’s easy to see the imbalance in someone else’s business and life.
What about your business?
What about your life?
Straight Talk. Good Stuff. Subscribe Now.
Sign up for my blog updates and never miss a post. I write for Inc. Magazine every week and I'll send you occasional lifestyle and success information and tips. No junk. Promise.