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How Being in Tune With Your Values Can Set You Up for Success

Research shows you can be more productive and fulfilled by identifying what matters most to you and using those values to help you reach your goals.

What inspires and energizes you? What gives your life meaning and gives you a reason to get up in the morning?

Whatever your answers, these Big Questions can be summed up with a single word: values. Quite simply, your values are what matter most to you. They’re connected, in meaningful ways, to where you come from and where you want to go.

Reflecting on what matters most to you might not seem all that productive or relevant to your career. But when you can identify intersections between where you find meaning at work and what inspires you outside of work, something powerful happens. Instead of viewing your work and the rest of your life as separate and even opposing realms, you’ll find that they’re not only deeply connected, but that one helps fuel the other.

Companies around the world are learning that this fusion can propel people to new heights of performance, productivity and engagement. More importantly, it’s helping individuals to go about their work with more passion, authenticity and purpose. And it all begins with a conversation with yourself.

Welcome to the Thrive Guide to Vision & Values

Thrive Global is a behavior change platform focused on lowering stress and increasing well-being and productivity. The company, founded by Arianna Huffington, creates lasting change in people’s lives by giving them sustainable, science-backed solutions to enhance their performance and overall well-being.

This Thrive Guide will show you how to be more productive and fulfilled by identifying what you value most and where you want to go.

Archimedes said “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.” One way to understand this timeless bit of wisdom is that before we can move the world, we first must know who we are, what we stand for and what exactly it is we want to do. Our Thrive Global Microsteps—simple, science-backed changes you can start incorporating into your daily life today—will help you get this important conversation started so you can take action.

We’ll introduce you to the New Role Models who show just how effective and successful you can be when values form the foundation of your actions, judgments and decisions. For example, on some mornings author Todd Davis reviews his “personal mission statement” to get himself thinking about what he stands for and what he hopes to accomplish. Melinda Gates told Thrive about the words of wisdom her mother shared with her years ago, which have guided her ever since. And fear and anxiety expert Kristen Ulmer shared the personal motto that helps her constantly challenge and improve herself.

In our Tech to Thrive section, we’ll show you how technology can help you go deeper, beyond the demands of our hyper-connected, fast-paced lives and down to what’s most meaningful to you.

For values and vision to be more than workplace buzzwords, leaders not only have to support but model values-based behavior and judgment. Our Managerial Take-aways section offers advice for managers who want to lead by example and create a culture where their direct reports know they’ll be encouraged and even celebrated when they act according to their values. When you bring people together in this way, you’ll find your teams are much more productive, cohesive and passionate about their work.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have the tools and practical advice you need to more deeply engage with your work by connecting it to what you really believe in. Let’s start by looking at just how important values have become in the world of business.

Why Values Matter, According to Science

These days, no business conference, panel discussion or CEO statement is complete without a full-throated assertion of just how important values are—not only to a company’s future success but to the future of the world itself.

In many ways, that’s a good thing. When a company thinks deeply about its mission, driving values and purpose in the world, it can guide leaders and employees toward meaningful work and serve as a powerful tool for accountability, since in our age of social media and transparency, it’s much easier for consumers and employees alike to call out companies when they fall short. And increasingly, workers are demanding this type of values-driven employment. In the UK, for example, nearly half of employees want to work for an organization that has a positive impact on the world, and 36 percent say they would work harder if their company contributed to the improvement of society, according to a study by the firm Global Tolerance.

But it’s hard to build and sustain a culture that’s truly powered by values. When only 13 percent of workers around the world are engaged at work, according to a 2013 Gallup poll of employees in 142 countries, it’s clear that something more is needed to create a sense of meaningful connection between employees and their organizations.

Knowing how important values are to the present and future of business, what does it mean for you? How can you improve your own performance and be more fulfilled by getting in tune with your values?

A powerful combination of science and philosophy underscores the benefits of making finding and living by your values a priority.

Take the Japanese concept of Ikigai, which translates to “a reason to get up in the morning.” It’s part of the Japanese culture’s reverence for the personal search for one’s reason for being, and the philosophy is frequently cited as one reason the Japanese have the longest life expectancy in the world. “Finding your ikigai is felt to be crucial to longevity and a life full of meaning,” wrote Héctor García, co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.

Knowing what you value and where you want to go in life is also related to one of the most useful productivity tools there is: prioritization. Just as you make value judgements in life about what matters more and what matters less, success at work depends in large part on your ability to make decisions about what deserves your attention. Productivity expert David Allen says prioritization isn’t just about which task to tackle first, it’s about asking questions deeply rooted in values and vision, such as “why are you on the planet?” and “what’s the vision you and your partners have in where you want to be?”

Finally, aside from the obvious pleasures of feeling a reason to get up in the morning, there are health benefits, too. Those with a high sense of purpose—defined as “a sense of meaning and direction, and a feeling that life is worth living”—may have lower risk of stroke and heart disease, according to a 2015 study by researchers at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt.

Having explored the reasons vision and values can fuel success, let’s now put them into action.

Microsteps

These are simple ways to not only identify your values, vision and goals, but to help them guide your actions and decisions each day.

1. Take just five minutes to write a list of your values.

Ask yourself, “what matters most to me?” and then jot down your thoughts in a notebook or on a Post-It. Better yet, post your list at your desk so you can revisit it anytime.

2. Schedule appointments with yourself for the activities you value most.

Whether it’s physical, social, intellectual or spiritual fulfillment, make outside activities a priority by scheduling time on your calendar. The resulting connections, to yourself and others, are fundamental to a fulfilling and well-rounded life.

3. Make time for things that matter by dropping things that don’t.

If there’s an activity or half-hearted ambition in your life that’s draining your energy and keeping you from really matters, consider letting it go. When you give yourself permission to cut loose the things you don’t really care about—whether it’s learning to read Latin or learning to cook—you’ll have more time and energy left for what you really value.

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