Lately I’ve noticed that people are increasingly talking about brand values. Maybe you have noticed this too. It seems there is a pursuit to live more consciously in all aspects of life, both personal and professional. It’s a human need that goes beyond making money. I believe values are at the core of this fulfilment we seek, because values are present every moment of life.

Regardless of how aware you are of your values, clearly defining them is not an easy thing to do. But, before we talk about how to clarify your values, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what values are.

Here is my understanding of what values are and (as equally important) what are they not.

  • Values start when we are children. Values are not a trend.
  • Values are reality. Values are not ethics.
  • Values are actions. Values are not a wish list. Values are not goals.
  • Values are both the good and the less desirable sides of us.
  • Values are the truth about who we really are. Values are not who we want to be.
  • Values are what we say, only when confirmed by our actions.
  • Values are transparent. Values are not intentions.
  • Values are present when people are watching and when they are not.

Brand values are an integral part of the brand development process. Now that we’re talking about the same thing, let’s discuss how to acknowledge values in your life. How to recognize what are your core values versus what are your desired behaviours. I’ll ask you some questions that will help guide you towards this clarity.

First let’s go back to when you were a child because that’s where your values began. You were taught certain behaviours at a very young age. Perhaps, you were taught to say thank you and be thankful. Maybe you learned that adults can be trusted and now you are someone who openly trusts others. Whoever you were when you were 6 years old has a lot to do with what you value today. Who were you when you were 6 years old?

Your values are with you even in your darkest moments because values are not who you wish to be. Values are how you behave in your most naked moments. How you act in these challenging times defines your values. Think back to the most difficult moment in your life. What did you do? What action did you take? And what’s important about that?

Your actions say everything about what you value. How you hire, how you fire, how you compete with your competitors. Who you choose to date. What you eat. Why you launch new products and not others. All of your decisions, regardless of how small they may seem, say something about what you value. Are there some common themes in the decisions you make? What’s matters about the actions you took in those moments?

Donald Trump clearly values money above all else. You expect him to be a leader who, above all else, measures his employees success on profitability and bottom line results. The polar opposite of that definition of success is a leader who defines their success based on the positive impact they value making in their employees and client’s lives. How do you define success? What does that say about what you value?

Your values are even present when your posting and tweeting. Are you a big retweeter? Are you an information sharer? Are you a thought provoker? Are you a participant? Are you a listener? Are you a one way stream? Every post is an action that embodies what you value. What does your communication style tell you about what you value?

Your values are present in every moment of your life from the simplest interactions like tweeting to the most challenging moments in your life. I hope these questions and contexts are helping you see your values more clearly. So what happens next?

When you start to become aware of your values you will become accountable for the life you value living. You will consciously choose how each day happens, life no longer will happen to you. But remember, you’re human and you’ll make mistakes. People, businesses and products are not always perfect. Mistakes happen, what matters the most is how you handle your mistakes.

Have you ever been faced with a situation where confronting someone is more difficult than ignoring them? Have you been in a situation where the truth would be a difficult pill to swallow? As a result, you end up taking the easy way out so that you or your business won’t look bad?

Let’s take the value of honesty as an example. If you value honesty (like so many companies claim) then you should confess the truth regardless of the outcome or monetary loss, but we both know that doesn’t always happen. People take the easy way out all the time.

The question we need to ask here is how uncomfortable the easy path is to take? If it makes you terribly uncomfortable then you clearly value honesty and you’ll need to find a way to have that truthful conversation.

The moment you compromise your values you let a piece of you slip away. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, then respect your values and you might just be pleasantly surprised at the long-term affects of living in your values. Clarifying your values could be the best thing you’ve every done.

It’s my hope that this blog post leaves you more clear about your own values. I certainly became more clear myself after a thought provoking conversation I had with Jeff Turner yesterday. I’m grateful to have learned from him and shared in this important conversation. Jeff is heartfelt human being, someone I never would have met had it not been for technology (I love Twitter!), but more importantly he is a person I connected with because of our shared values.