How Ya Living?

A personal story on aligning a career to core values.

(Too) many years ago as a teenager, I was involved in a youth group that adopted the phrase, “How Ya Living?” On the surface, it is no different than the greetings I say today. For the group I was a part of, however, it had much deeper meaning. When someone asked it, it was understood that it really meant, “How well are things going in your life right now? What are you valuing and how well are your actions lining up with these things?” There was a deep undercurrent in the question that caused the answerer to reflect and offer a real perspective on where they were in their life.

As I have gotten (much) older, I realize this is a question I do not ask often enough of myself. Maybe you feel the same way. There have been times I have gone years without taking the time to consider the answer to “how ya living?” I have found when I do not consider this question on a regular basis; I end up doing things that are not aligned with my Core Values.

Core Values state a kind of moral code. They highlight what is really important. In some sense, they define right from wrong for an individual or a group. For example, Centric has a set of Core Values. We use them to guide our decision making and influence our strategy. Analyzing our performance relative to them helps us understand if we are becoming the company we set out to be in the late 90s and keeps us focused on what’s most important.

From a career point of view, I went through a critical evaluation of my Core Values soon after I joined Centric in 2007. My career up to that point had featured a mix of consulting and managerial roles. I was excited to jump back into consulting so I could focus on helping companies solve tough problems! I was also excited to be joining a group of people at Centric who I felt a strong connection with. It really shocked me when, in the first several days of working at Centric, I knew something was amiss. I loved the people I was working with. I loved serving my clients. I simply was not happy with my overall work experience.

It took me a couple of years to explore this feeling of unhappiness. In a quiet moment, I reflected on how I was living from a career perspective. My answer?  “I don’t know.” I could not express how my work life compared to my Core Values because it had been so long since I took stock of what I really valued in my career.

I launched into a series of self-discovery efforts, taking personal assessments from StrengthsFinder 2.0 to Career Anchors. While the assessment tools did not provide me with a straightforward answer, they did give me the ability to articulate my new set of work Core Values. For me, I knew I wanted to do something different with my career that helped people learn, grow and change. I took action to re-direct my work path and obtained a Master’s degree in adult education. I am thrilled to be serving Centric in a people-focused development role today.

To wrap this up, I have one question for you…How Ya Living? When it comes to your own career, are you on course with your own Core Values? Or do you feel you’ve veered off the path and need to reassess your vision and goals?

Here is a simple three-step exercise you can follow that will help you answer this question and take action from what you discover.

  1. Schedule some time to be silent and still. Go to a park and sit. Get up early and sit on the porch. Stay up late and sit in the dark.  Sit…and…be…still.
  2. When your thoughts have calmed down and are no longer racing through your head, think about your answer to, “How Ya Living?” Are you doing the things in your career and life that match with what is important to you? What is important to you?
  3. Before ending your time of reflection, commit to one step, one action based on your thoughts. Do not worry about a grandiose plan of change or involvement. Simply commit to one thing and do it, whatever the action is. (Once you take that first action, identify and commit to the second one!)

Are you interested in exploring your Core Values and taking action on your discoveries?  Check out some of these other helpful resources:

  • Define Your Personal Core Values: This article from Inc. Magazine explains the benefits of documenting your Core Values and offers a five-step process to do so.
  • Live Bold and Bloom: This blog (and more!) offers tips on how to get the most out of life. It also provides several resources to discover deeper meaning in your career/life and then take action on these discoveries.
  • 17,000 Days: This blog encourages you to act on your dreams. Take the blog’s How Many Days exercise to find out how many days you have left and use it as a reminder to make each one count! FYI, my number is 14,793 as of June 4th.
  • The Change Blog: The Change Blog provides you regular guidance on how to be the change you envision.