Did you know understanding (and I mean REALLY understanding) your values, can give you superpowers?
Let’s start with stress, this from the article that inspired the structure of this post “..researchers at UCLA have also discovered that reflecting on personal values can actually lower your stress response and keep it low“.
This begs the question – why this is the case? I am not entirely certain, however I suspect there are things that we stress about that are not that important to us, this process allows us to cross those low priorities worries off the ‘worry list’.
Better Decision Making
Speaking of data, science also supports superpower two, in which values improve decision making. This is certainly my experience working with clients on tough decisions, using my values-based decision-making tools.
It is not that working with your values makes difficult decisions suddenly easy-as-pie, but it does ease the to-ing and fro-ing, the ruminating and overthinking and going around and around again. A values-based approach to decision making also minimises rehashing the decision afterwards (Did I do the right thing? Am I sure?).
Many times I have had the privilege of being in coaching with someone when the values aligned direction becomes crystal clear. Sometimes the ‘right’ decision is actually going to be the hardest to do, often because of the impact on others.
Yet, this sort of clarity (aka superpower) isn’t something you can unlearn. It also gives you courage. It makes clear what the consequences of taking the non-values-aligned option are, thus doubling down on the courage. I certainly observe this in my coaching clients and my own life.
Improved Health Habits
In the KAN PLAN, I work with people on habits hacking and values. However , despite my deep love of evidence – I did not know about this superpower. I was very pleased to learn how just reflecting on deeply held values can improve habits. It’s always gratifying when a hunch turns out to be correct eh?
Don’t take this to mean that if someone in your life has unhealthy habits they don’t value health. Values need work and attention to achieve their superpowers. Just like superheroes need to get their capes and masks etc on to use their powers, steps must be taken to get your values working with you.
Fire up Willpower
I know, I’m always banging on about willpower being a myth and not useful for habit change.
Let me defend myself a bit. Willpower is unreliable, it waxes and wanes (exactly how and why is a spot of confusion in research just now). So I recommend not relying on your willpower to create good habits. Buuuut when you have willpower it’s great and things that lift it up should be thoroughly taken advantage of. Just don’t trust it to create long term habit change.
Act More Assertively
I see this one in my work too. There is something about your deepest identity looking back at you from the page, that gives confidence and courage – that allows a more assertive approach. This thing looking back at you is the values circumplex that I support people to creating in group and one-on-one coaching. This takes several weeks of deep reflection, after which something shifts.
This metaphor might help: Values clarity feels to me like there is a line in the sand that was invisible. When it was invisible, it was easy to ignore if someone else crossed that line. But once the line is there and clear (using the values circumplex) if someone crosses it – it is easier to say – “excuse me, you just crossed the line, look”. It is also easier for the line crosser to understand and be less likely to be offended.
Understanding breeds understanding.
I notice this with any sort of personal reflection for example when using psychometric profiling with clients. Self-awareness of how and why you operate due to your values or personality or background naturally gets you thinking about others. It also gives you a toolset or framework and language through which to view others. Understanding others has another wonderful bonus for you, because people like those that understand them (as long as you don’t abuse this new super power).
Wiser Career Choices
Although I support leaders to make values-based decisions all the time, I had not thought of the word ‘wise’
I know it helps make better, more values-aligned decisions – that make them happier in the long run (even for very uncomfortable decisions). But of course, silly me, this is potentially the definition of wisdom.
And maybe it is as … the definition of wisdom includes ‘good judgement’. How can you make a good judgement on a complex career decision without using a values-based approach?
I have said this loads so it is nice others are saying it too and that data is supporting it.
What better way to feel better about you, than to define really clearly what matters to you most. Somehow this process takes you away from focusing on what society is telling you has value.
I am very clearly aware that most people after a social media scroll, feel worse, there is loads of evidence of this. This doesn’t happen to me often, not because I am immune, but because understanding what really matters helps me curate my feeds to be inspiring to me. Rather than feeds that show me all the things I might envy if I saw them thousands of times a day e.g. a teeny waist, massive wealth, a yacht, the glow of youth.
Instead, I am ruthless about ensuring that the things I read, watch are values aligned. Sometimes this includes not following people in my own social circles (don’t tell anyone). For work, I can’t always do this, and the difference is noticeable.
Enhanced Relationship Intimacy
And there it is superpower number nine – enhanced relationship intimacy. I do notice when both sides of a couple go through the values process magic happens.
On a more serious note, sometimes values work to helps people understand that a relationship isn’t fixable, at least not in a way that allows both to live a values congruent life. Of course, this is not the first place we look and not something to be taken lightly. However, it can be a real life-changer for all parties. It can also help with a more amicable separation as that understanding superpower can be leveraged, especially if kids are involved.
The idea for the title and images here are taken from a great post in Psychology Today by Meg Selig. To this I have added some of my personal experiences as I have been working with values in coaching for over 15 years. During that time I have supported hundreds of people through the values process I design in a cave in the south of Spain in 2002.