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Career Mastery, Part 3: How To Tune Into Your Individual Values To Find Balance In Work and Life

By John Berardi, PhD

Career Planning

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The health and fitness industry is full of passionate professionals, driven by a soul-stirring mission: To help others live healthier, longer, and stronger lives. But passion isn’t enough, for you or your clients. Which is why this 3-part series outlines a step-by-step process for turning passion into purpose and purpose into a successful career. In part 3, how to tune into your values and use them to find balance.

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In part 1 of this career mastery series we talked about how to go beyond cliches to clearly define your purpose. And in part 2 we talked about how to uncover your unique abilities and use them to serve your purpose. In this article, we outline the final step—tuning in to your individual values.

Values Are The Guardrails To Keep You On Track

When you’re on fire with purpose and using your superpowers for good, work can feel pretty amazing. (For an instant jolt of gratitude, contrast that feeling with the feeling of having no purpose and doing work that frustrates you because you’re not particularly good at.)

At the same time, it’s easy to get swept away by your passion.

It’s easy to start working long hours, burning the candle at both ends. Easy to focus exclusively on your mission, ignoring family, friends, and others in your community. Easy to seize every opportunity, forgetting that physical and mental growth comes not during massive efforts, but from the recuperation time between them.

That’s where your values come in.

Values are the guardrails to keep you on track.

But what are values?

They’re the ideals you think are essential for a good life. They’re guiding principles you feel proud to live out, beliefs you’re willing to fight for. They’re (hopefully) how you decide priorities. And, when you use them to decide priorities, you’re more likely to live a fulfilled life.

A Peek Into My Values and Priorities

To show you how this works, here are the values that have driven my decision-making for a decade:

Family
I value spending focused, undistracted time with my wife and our four children. I’m particularly keen on high quality one-on-one time with each, which includes skipping work (and school) some days, taking trips together, and more.

Self-care
I value spending time each day to keep myself physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. This includes getting enough sleep, exercising often, eating well, meditating, time in nature, reading, enjoying the arts, spending time with counselors, and other activities.

Professional growth
I value the building and ongoing development of my companies (Precision Nutrition and Change Maker Academy). I value the development of my teammates within each organization. And I value the growth that comes from trying things, reflecting on what happened, learning, and trying again.

More than just a set of conceptual ideals, I’ve made these values concrete by turning them into priorities and posting them visibly in my office.

Priority #1
Be an active, present partner to my wife and parent to our four children.

Priority #2
Carve out daily time for self-care (exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management).

Priority #3
Within my work hours, do everything I can to serve and build the Precision Nutrition and Change Maker brands and communities.

Using My Values and Priorities To Decide What To Do Next

With clearly articulated values, and posted priorities, my life—while very full—is also straightforward. All opportunities and decisions are informed by the following questions:

  • “Will this help me become a more present parent or partner?”
  • “Will this help me with my health, fitness, sleep, and stress management?”
  • “Will this make a big impact on the growth of Precision Nutrition or Change Maker Academy?”

Everything that’s not a “yes” to one of the questions above has to be a “no.” Even if it scratches my “I get to take a cool trip” itch, or my “I get to connect with someone I really respect” itch, or my “I get to try something new” itch.

Here’s an example: A friend and colleague recently asked me to speak at a renowned symposium in Olympia, Greece. No, not Mr. Olympia, the bodybuilding contest. This is the real Olympia, the site of the original Olympic games, where they preserve the ancient ruins and house an international learning academy.

I nearly rushed into saying yes. But when I asked my key questions above, I saw a very different answer. It wasn’t going to help me be a better parent or partner, wasn’t going to help with my self-care, and wasn’t going to grow Precision Nutrition or Change Maker Academy. I shouldn’t take this trip.

Yet, in the moment, I really wanted to go! So I looked for loopholes. What if I bring my whole family and we rent a nearby villa? Sadly, still no. (With 4 young children, bringing the whole family halfway around the world wasn’t right for us).

I was sad to turn the opportunity down, of course. But that was the only sensible choice once I ran it through the “values and priorities filter.”

Now Let’s Tune Into Your Values

Your values and priorities are probably different than mine.

Maybe you think I’m nuts for turning down the Olympia trip. Perhaps “travel” or “having new experiences” is one of your top values. If so, that’s great—but articulate it. Capture it. Get clear about it.

You can do so by answering the following questions.

Step 1:
Using examples from your career and personal life, think of the times you felt happiest.

  • What were you doing?
  • Who were you with?
  • What else was involved that contributed to the feelings of happiness?

Step 2:
Think of the times you were most proud, again using career and personal examples.

  • Why were you proud?
  • Who else shared in your pride?
  • What else was involved that contributed to the feelings of pride?

Step 3:
Next, think of the times you were most fulfilled.

  • What need or desire was fulfilled?
  • How and why did the experience give your life meaning?
  • What other factors contributed to your feelings of fulfillment?

Step 4:
Finally, think of the times you felt most physically energized, at peace, or full of vitality and “flow.”

  • What were you doing?
  • Who were you with?
  • What else was involved that contributed to the feelings of energy, peace, and flow?

Step 5:
Based on your experiences with happiness, pride, fulfillment, and embodied cognition, consider which sorts of values drive those feelings. 

For example, if you feel most energized while writing, painting, or making music, perhaps creativity is one of your core values. Or maybe if you feel most proud, fulfilled, and at peace when helping out at a senior center, one of your core values is service.

Here’s a list of values that people commonly associate with:

Change Maker Academy List of Values

As you consider how your experiences dovetail with the values listed here, consider the ones that best describe you. If your list is long, narrow it down to the three to five that feel most resonant.

Step 6:
Reality test your list by asking questions like these.

  • Would my closest friends, unprompted, say these were the ideals that mean the most to me?
  • Would I support these ideals even if my choice wasn’t popular and it put me in the minority?
  • Am I prioritizing my work, and my life, according to these values today?

Another great way of knowing if you’re on the right track is to test them against each other. For example, if you list adventurousness as your top value, consider whether you’d be willing to go on a once-in-a-lifetime three-month trip even if it meant losing out on a fantastic career opportunity? If not, is adventurousness really your top value?

In the end, coming up with your values (and the priorities that naturally flow from them) is heady work. Yet the payoff is huge. Your values and priorities will become much-needed guardrails for governing your work and your life.

Consider: if life flexibility is one of your values, working defined hours in a health and fitness clinic every Monday through Saturday isn’t probably ideal. If family is a value, then seeing clients between 4 and 9 p.m. doesn’t mesh. If you value being in nature, maybe you don’t want to be in a windowless massage room for ten hours a day.

Even more than helping you define the career choices to run away from, your values—along with your purpose and unique abilities—can help you choose the work to run toward.

Want to learn more? Dive deeper?

Then download this FREE sample of my latest book, Change Maker.

Change Maker shares the tips, strategies, and lessons I learned growing Precision Nutrition from a two-person passion project to a 200 million dollar company that’s coached over 200,000 clients, certified over 100,000 professionals, and revolutionized the field of nutrition coaching.

Whether you work as a health coach, strength coach, nutritionist, functional medicine doc, or rehab specialist, Change Maker will help you discover the right direction to take, the fastest way to make progress, and the practical steps required to build the career of your dreams in health and fitness.

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