How to Live Your Greatest Values Through Your Career
Last week, someone said something to me that gave me a new perspective on my career.
“Make your career a vehicle for your greatest values.”
He described how he spent years thinking about emotional intelligence and the pursuit of fulfillment. He wanted to teach others, explore the world, and have deep conversations with fascinating people — so he built a career around helping people live to their purpose.
He did not stumble into his ideal life. He was very intentional.
First, he defined his ideal life — through getting crystal-clear about his values. Then, he built a career that allowed him to live those values.
Here’s the mindshift.
Instead of choosing a career that simply reflects your values, choose a career that lets you live your values — and bring them to life.
There were about 20 of us squeezed on a long table on a rooftop restaurant in Tel Aviv. For a moment, the chatter from all the other conversations died away as I listened intently.
You may not be living your greatest values yet in your day-to-day life. Though you might value inspiring and teaching others, you may not have as many opportunities to do so today. But when you choose a career based on the values that matter most, you can’t help but start living them.
A transformation happens:
Values you want to live by→ Values you DO live by
It might be a reach at first. But by slowly building that career, you create more opportunities in your life to BE those values every day — until they become part of you.
Career as a Vehicle
Imagine your values as the road you want to travel, the path you want to take in life. And your career is the vehicle that takes you down that path.
If you don’t know your values, then you might be driving fast — but blindly — toward an unknown destination.
The First Step
But where do you begin?
First, you must really understand your values.
You’d be surprised how many people walk around without really knowing their values. Sure, they may reply with something vague like “integrity” and “loyalty” — but those are more like principles.
Here are some examples of values, according to the Barrett Values Assessment:
- Personal fulfillment
- Enthusiasm / positive attitude
- Future generations
- Professional growth
Gal asked me, “What do you value?”
I value independence, questioning the status quo, creativity, self-expression. Personal and spiritual growth. Connecting deeply with others. Inspiring others, and opening my mind.
Now, the question: Am I really living my values — in my career, and in my life?
It’s a question I’ll need to continue asking myself, every day.
How can you really know?
One way is to think about how your career makes you feel. How fulfilled are you, and are any of your values under-represented?
How would you feel if your career wasn’t aligned with your values?
There was a time when I had a dream job, amazing team, stimulating work. But something was off. I felt anxious, stressed, suffocated. Limited and uncreative.
When I had the time after work, I’d go to the coffee shop to write at night. I was hungry for a creative outlet. Though I wasn’t fully aware of it then, I was hungry to grow — personally, professionally, spiritually — in the direction of my values.
It took me three years to actually quit my job, from the time I realized how much I loved writing and having more autonomy in my work. But without much awareness, I was slowly veering toward that path.
What if you can’t quit your job right now?
That’s okay. You can pick up side projects. Today, you can have multiple careers and passion projects. Build a community around your values. Find people that align well, and surround yourself with them.
Freedom to Create Your Ideal Life
Maybe more people are opting to work remotely or freelance because our values are evolving. And it’s getting easier to build careers that drive our values, thanks to the technology and tools available to take the leap.
It seems today that people have less tolerance for authority, tradition, and centralization — and increasing hunger for freedom and autonomy. They value risk over stability.
But this isn’t really anything new.
This hunger has existed for centuries, bubbling up and expressing itself in different forms throughout history — through revolutions, rebellions, and reformations.
Companies, and teams, have always been a powerful vehicle for creating change in the world.
But now, it’s easier than ever before to live our values at the individual level — through our careers.
And that’s where change truly begins: first, with ourselves.
Your career then becomes a powerful vehicle for creating the change you want to see in the world — through the grandest expression of your life.
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