Nearly every problem you face is temporary. But these temporary problems cause immediate pain. And we often let this pain drive our choices and actions we make.
- An employee suffering from the pain of not feeling important enough or powerful enough might take a terrible job with a fancy title.
- An individual suffering from the pain of feeling unloved or unappreciated or misunderstood might try to resolve that pain by cheating on their spouse.
- An entrepreneur suffering from the pain of a faltering small business might resort to using questionable marketing tactics to try to drive more sales.
This is how you make choices you wouldn’t normally make. When you let the problem drive your decisions, you make exceptions and “just this once” choices to resolve the pain, annoyance, or uncertainty that you’re feeling in the moment.
How can we avoid this pitfall and make better long-term choices while still resolving short-term pain?
Here’s an approach I’ve been trying recently. See if it works for you…
Let Your Values Drive Your Choices
One of the solutions I’ve been trying out is to let my values drive my choices. That doesn’t mean I ignore other aspects of my decision-making process. I simply add my core values into the mix.
For example, if I’m working on a problem in my business, rather than just asking, “Will this make money?”
I can ask, “Is this in alignment with my values?” And then, “Will this make money?”
If I say no to either, then I look for another option.
The idea behind this method is that if we live and work in alignment with our values, then we’re more likely to live a life we are proud of rather than one we regret.
Power of Constraint You Believe In
Every decision is made within some type of constraint. Maybe it’s how much knowledge you have. Maybe it’s how much money you have. Maybe it’s how many resources you have. Why not what values you have?
Making better choices is often a matter of choosing better constraints. By limiting your options to those that fit your values, you are taking an important step to ensuring that your behavior matches your beliefs.
Know your principles and you can choose your methods.
How to Let Your Values Drive Your Choices
Most people never take the time to think about their values, write them down, and clarify them. Maybe it sounds too simple or unnecessary.
Here are some core values and questions that you can use to think more deeply about each area of your life.
Growth (Learning, Adventure, and Taking Action)
- Am I learning and improving? Am I seeking adventure and exploration?
- Am I setting a higher standard in my work and my life?
- Am I taking action on the things that are important to me?
Self-Respect (Authenticity, Balance, Happiness)
- Am I living a balanced life?
- Am I living authentically?
- Am I giving myself permission to be happy with who I am right now?
Servant Leadership (Community, Happiness, Responsibility)
- Am I bringing people together?
- Am I making the world a happier place?
- Am I empowering others to be leaders and tell their own story?
Resiliency (Grit, Toughness, Perseverance)
- Am I mentally and physically strong?
- Am I someone who perseveres through difficulty and challenge?
- Am I someone others can count on? Am I reliable and dependable?
In Conclusion: If you never sit down to think about your values, then you’ll be more likely to make decisions based on whatever information is in front of you at the time. That can be a recipe for regret down the road.
Life is complex and we are all faced with moments in our personal and professional lives that require us to make a choice without as much information as we need. The default assumption is that we need more knowledge or research in these situations, but often we just need a clear understanding of our values.
He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own.
If you don’t know what you stand for and where you’re headed, then it’s far too easy to get off course, to waste your time doing something you don’t need to be doing, or to make an exception (“just this once”) that leads you down a dangerous path. There are brilliant men and women with decent hearts and families they care dearly about spending a long time in jail right now because they made business decisions that were based on the pain they felt and not the values they believed in.
Setting limits for yourself — whether that involves the time you have to work out, the money you have to start a business, or the number of words you can use in a book — often delivers better results than “keeping your options open.”
Let your values drive your decisions.