If you’re unhappy in your career or any aspect of your life, the chances are that some of your values are not being honored. So what are values? And how can knowing and understanding your values help you to find work you love and be more successful and fulfilled in your career? Why are your values the secret to happiness in your career and life?

What Are Values?

Before we discuss why your values are the secret to happiness and career fulfillment, let’s first get clear on what values are.

Values are defined as the principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life. They are anything that you hold dear to you. Your values guide you in everyday life since they steer the decisions you make and ultimately the actions you take. What’s more, if you do things in alignment with your core values, you’ll feel more congruent and authentic since your values are personal to you.

Doing things that align with your values can lead you to your “true north”. In Awaken The Giant Within, the best-selling book by Anthony Robbins, values are described as your personal compass. So, you can see just how important it is to know what your values are if you want to reach any of your goals and certainly if you want to find work that you’ll love snd find fulfilling.

Types of Values & Their Importance

Move-towards and move-away from values

Move toward values are values that lead you to feel pleasure. These are the things you want in your life. An example of a move towards value that someone might have, is love. If one of your values is love, you will take action and make decisions that move you towards getting more love. On the other hand, an example of a move away from value would be a shame. If shame was on your list of move-away from values, you might do everything in your power to avoid feeling the pain of shame.

As people, we all want to experience pleasure,  at the same time, we’re also built to avoid pain, a mechanism that keeps us safe. When faced with a decision, your brain will weigh up the likelihood of that choice you make leading to pleasure or pain and it will steer you in the direction that leads to the least pain. If your brain thinks that the pain will outweigh the pleasure in a given circumstance, then you won’t take that action.

So, if you self-sabotage and hold yourself back by not taking the action you know you need to take to achieve something you want, this means there is a conflict within your goals and there is a move away from the value that you subconsciously deem more important, or hold more highly than the move-towards value. This is why it’s critical to get crystal clear on what your values are.

We all hold both sets of values, some people are more driven by move-away from values, while others are motivated by move-towards values. Do you know which one you are?

Means values and ends values

In addition to move-towards and move-away from values, other lesser-known types of values are “means” values and “ends” values. And not knowing the difference between these two types of values can cause as much pain as not being clear of what your values are in the first place.

Means values are values which if met, lead you to achieve a deeper end value. But often we are only aware of the means value. For example, one of your values might be relationships, but if someone were to ask you what is important to you about relationships? What do relationships give you? You might say security. In this case, the relationship is a means value because what you’re ultimately after is security and the relationship serves as a way for you to get this.

Not all relationships will give you security,  and what’s more, you could get security in other ways. But not being aware that you have these two values in the first place and not knowing that one is a means and the other is the end, could lead to a lot of unhappy, unfulfilling relationships. Leaving you wondering why you can’t find happiness no matter what you do. Because until you find a relationship that gives you the feeling of security that you’re truly after, you’ll be left feeling unfulfilled.

From a career perspective if one of your highest held values is creativity, and you see your job as an opportunity to express yourself or your creativity, then a job that offered everything else on your tick list but didn’t meet this end value could ultimately lead to dissatisfaction. Knowing your values will help you to avoid this job dissatisfaction and unhappiness in the long run.

Values Hierarchy

Not all values are equal. As well as knowing your move-towards and move-away from values, and your end and means values, it’s also important to understand your values hierarchy. Because you will place different importance on each of your values. This means that when it comes to any conflicts within your values, the value that is of the highest importance to you will be followed.


Most people aren’t aware of what their values are, let alone what their order of importance is! And this is why you can feel stuck and unclear about what to do to get back on track or how to move forwards.

Once you know your values hierarchy, then the reasons for some of your actions or inactions, and your setbacks and self-sabotage can become clear and you can focus on finding a career path or job that honors the values which you hold most dear.

When faced with career decisions, once you know your most important values, then decision-making will become easier.

Where Do Values Come From?

One of the reasons that most of us don’t know what our values are is because we acquire them from so many different sources outside ourselves and from such a young age. Since people act in accordance with their values, your parents would have rewarded and punished you according to what they deemed to be right and wrong and the values that they held. The same goes for teachers and other authority figures.

Establishments, corporations, and groups can also have a set of values that they follow or adhere to and many companies will share their value statements on their websites so that anyone looking to understand who they are and what they’re about can immediately see these values and know. Company value statements are a great place to start when finding out whether or not a company might be a good fit for you. Of course, only if everyone who works in an organization upholds these values does the statement ring true.

So you get your values from parents, teachers, your company, your friends, role models, and anyone else you might look up to or spend a large amount of time with. This is why the people you surround yourself with are so important to your success. Because they will shape your values, your decisions, and your actions.

How To Find Your Values

With everything you’ve learned about the importance of values, you’re probably eager to find out what your values are and which ones are the most important to you. Because it’s all well and good understanding values, but the secret to happiness in your career is understanding yourself, starting with your values!

But if you absorb your values from everyone around you- how on earth are you supposed to know what your true values are?

Great questions!

One of the best ways to find out what your values are is to simply ask yourself the following powerful question.

What is the most important thing to you in the world? 

Sounds simple right? But that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful, nor does it mean you should take it lightly. To really find out what your highest values are, give yourself ample time, to reflect on this question and brainstorm – get it all down on paper, list all the things that are most important to you in the world. These could include move-towards values, as well as move-away from values, and also, means and end values.

Means vs Ends

To find out if a value is the end value itself or if it is a means value- ask yourself the following:

If I get this, what will it give me?

What will getting this do for me?

Why is it important for me to have this? 

The answers to these questions will unveil even more end values to add to your list.

Then take it a step further by ranking your top 10 values to give you a list of your most important 10 values.

Completing this exercise is one of the first and most important steps you can take towards figuring out what it is that you want from your life and career and as a result, what your next steps should be.

Now you know the importance of values, and better still you’ve discovered you’re most important values find out:

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