Your Personal Values Will Help You Make Important Life and Career Decisions

Shaka Smart is the men’s Head Basketball Coach at the University of Texas. This will be his first season. He took the Texas job after six seasons at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he brought that program to national prominence. I read an article in Sports Illustrated about Smart and how he is remaking the Texas basketball program in his image – beginning with his five core values: Appreciation, Enthusiasm, Competitiveness, Teamwork, Accountability.

Members of my career mentoring site will tell you that I believe it’s important to identify your personal values. I spend an entire chapter in my book Climbing the Corporate Ladder discussing the importance of values.

Your personal values most often come from your life experiences and major influencers: people and things like your parents and family, your religious affiliation, your friends and peers, your education, your reading. They help you make decisions in ambiguous situations.

Your values impact every aspect of your life. You demonstrate them in your personal and work behaviors, decision making and interactions with other people. You use your values to make decisions in your daily work and home life. Your goals and life purpose are grounded in your values.

Regardless of your life experiences and influencers, you can choose the values that are most important to you, things you believe in and that define your character. Living in congruence with your values is the best way to become the person you want to be and to achieve the career and life success you want and deserve.

Very simply, values are those things that are important to you. They are the embodiment of what you stand for as a human being. Your personal values are your guides to decision making in ambiguous situations. They guide your life. You make decisions based on your values every day. We all do.

One of my coaching clients turned down a big promotion recently. When I asked him why, he said, “The job I was offered would have meant relocating. My family is very important to me. I have two kids in high school. I wasn’t willing to disrupt their lives at this point. I’m sure other opportunities will come along in three years when both of them are out of the house and in college.”

This person was staying true to his value of family. He was willing to put his career success on hold for a few years to provide a stable home life and high school experience for his kids. He told me that he didn’t have to think very hard about turning down the promotional opportunity. His family value was that deeply ingrained in him.

Let’s take another example. Many people value their personal integrity. They demonstrate this value by telling a cashier that he or she has given them change for a twenty when in fact they paid with a ten.

These examples are rather clear-cut. However, your personal values are most valuable when you are confronted by a truly ambiguous situation calling for a difficult decision. They will guide you and help you make the best possible decision.

When you are job hunting, find a company that has values similar to yours. You’ll fit in better and be more comfortable if you do. Ask questions in your interviews: “What’s it like to work here?” “How important is integrity at this company?” “What do you like most about working here?” “What do you like least about working here?” If you read between the lines, you’ll get a pretty good idea about the values of the company. This will help you decide if you want to work with them. A good fit between your personal values and company values will make your work life more pleasant and fulfilling.

What do you value? What’s important to you? Take the time to think about these things. Distill them down into a set of meaningful personal values – the four, five or six things that guide your life. You’ll find that they come in very handy when you’re faced with some tough decisions.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.


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