“It’s just not working.”
These were the words that came out of my client’s mouth on a recent coaching call. They were frustrated. This client was putting in the work and seeing some traction in their business. But no matter how good things were going there was still something missing.
As we dug into the issue, it became clear that there was a gap between the goals this client had for their business and the personal values they had for themselves. My client was experiencing the tension that comes with misalignment.
I’ve been there. My guess is that you have too. It’s pretty easy to spot an alignment issue in your vehicle. We all know the feeling of driving 75 on the highway and feeling our car pulling to the left. It’s much harder to spot alignment issues in our work and personal lives. The tension is there, but we can’t always put our finger on it.
While it may be difficult to assess misalignment, it is incredibly important. A purpose driven career that you feel good about requires a connection between your values and your goals. When your values and goals match up, you are much more likely to feel good about the work you are doing and the goals you are pursuing.
Feeling good about your work might not seem like the highest priority, but there is plenty fo research that says it is.
One study found that 81% of people say their job satisfaction is tied to a sense of purpose. In other words – alignment produces happiness. It matters.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to get everything moving in the same direction. I’m going to get a little bit prescriptive with the steps, but there are multiple ways you can bring these steps to life in your unique context.
KNOW YOUR VALUES
Values are the deeply held beliefs and principles that shape your actions and decisions. For example, if you have a value that all people matter, it is going to impact the way that you treat your boss AND your barista.
These values can encompass a wide range of things from work to relationships to personal behaviors. This might surprise you, but I don’t think it matters all that much which values you choose. What matters is that you know them and that you live them out.
The process of identifying your values takes time. Hold on – I’m worried that you rushed past that sentence. It takes time to identify your values. When I was going through this exercise for myself, I set aside several hours over the course of a month. I turned my phone off, I shut down my email, and I just focused on identifying 3-5 principles or beliefs that really mattered to me. Once I had them down on paper, I sat with them for a few weeks. I’d revisit them daily to make sure they were actually mine.
This process might seem daunting at first. The truth is, most people don’t have clearly identified values because it’s hard work to wrestle with your guiding principles and core beliefs. Just remember – it’s connected to your happiness!
KNOW YOUR GOALS
Now that you’ve got some clarity around your values, it’s time to revisit your goals. Strong goals without values can do a lot of damage, but strong values without goals will guarantee that you don’t get anywhere. Goals matter, and the way to get started is with a key question:
What do you want…really?
There are two parts to this question. First, what do you want? This is where you walk through the process of defining your goals and getting clear on what you want to achieve. These goals can be personal or professional, and you get to decide what they are. The important thing is that you have them, and that they are written down. I personally revisit my goals every morning as a way to stay focused on the bigger picture.
The second part of the question is one word: really. Sometimes your first attempt at identifying a goal will actually be an action step that supports a larger goal. For instance, you might have a goal of going to the gym. If I were your coach and you shared that goal, my follow up question would be, “What makes that important to you right now?” I’d ask this question because I want you to make sure this is the highest version of your goal. Do you want to go to the gym because you want to lose weight? What makes that important? Are you trying to get healthy? Are you trying to lose weight because it will get you more respect at work? Are you trying to look better for a significant other? Each of the previous examples represent a bigger goal, and losing weight is one of the steps to get you there.
Much like the process of identifying our values, this takes time and effort. But like the old saying goes – if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.
LOOK FOR ALIGNMENT
Once you have clarified both your values and your goals, then it’s time to do an alignment check. I do this by asking a question: Do my goals and values work together or do they create tension? Let’s say that I have a financial goal this year and I value prioritizing my family. If my financial goal is causing me to work too many hours, then it is probably in tension with my value. Let me be clear – you can win at both home and work, but not without intentional effort and a solid plan.
Once again, the process of aligning your goals and values takes both time and honesty. I always involve an outside perspective in this process. I’ll ask my wife and my friends to look at my goals and values to help me see if they actually align.
The other piece of advice I’ll give here is to pay attention to the tension. If you feel tension between a goal and a value, something has to give. My experience is that there is almost always a way to modify your goal so that it aligns with your values. It just takes some effort.
This simple three step process (know your values, know your goals, look for alignment) is what will separate you from the pack when it comes to job performance, career advancement, and leadership opportunities. Most importantly, you won’t have to experience that nagging feeling that something isn’t lining up. You’ll be happy and you’ll be productive. I don’t think you could ask for anything more.