When and Why Our Values Shift
How do you know when your values shift?
Before we even graduate from high school, most of us have participated in interest inventories and career aptitude tests. By the time we graduate from college, our interests, studies, and skills have aligned. We anticipate we’re on a path best suited for our personality, talents, and education.
And yet…most of us don’t recognize just how complex we are. Our personal preferences and unique sense of values are buried under layers of expectations and demands. To add to the complexity, our values shift over time.
When we identify as, or claim to be, a specific type of person (kind, caring, and genuine), but our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors indicate otherwise (we are resentful, rude, and just want other people to fall into line), it may be that we are unaware of our true values.
Of course, we are quick to notice when we see this happen in others. Our perception may be that they are inauthentic, manipulative, fake or maybe even a hypocrite.
When our own behaviors are inconsistent with what we claim to value, many of us have a physical reaction: a twinge, cringe, or moment when our body says, “no!” Way too often, we learn to ignore these uncomfortable feelings. Eventually, we stop paying attention. We become mistaken about our own identity, unaware of the shift in our values.
Have you been witness to this? Someone you know experienced a mid-career crisis. Their career was moving along at a satisfactory pace, and then one day you hear them wondering aloud, “How did I end up here?” I sometimes hear this in my coaching practice.
How Your Values Shift
In reality, our values are dynamic. With enough time or experience the hierarchy of our values can change. Typically, the shifts occur as a result of:
- New knowledge
- Social values and attitudes
- Personal experience
In a 2015 study, researchers Valdiney V. Gouveia, Kátia C. Vione, Taciano L. Milfont, Ronald Fischer studied more than 36,000 individuals across five geo-social regions and found that regardless of gender, values substantially change through-out our life span.
Why Does This Matters?
Your values are the underlying foundation of your inspiration, vision, and motivation. They are made up of what you believe and stand for, your convictions about what is most important in life. They help you set a course to what you believe truly matters; they guide you to purpose and fulfillment. Understanding when and how they shift will help you make adjustments and improvements—in leadership performance, satisfaction, and happiness.