Professor | Leadership | Faith + Work | Personal Branding

It was 1993, and I worked as an administrative assistant for a local electrician in the Florida Keys. At the time, I thought it was the right opportunity for me. I attended the local community college in Key West and had planned on getting a 2-year degree in office systems. This job allowed me to work and go to school, and quite honestly, working as an assistant was all I knew. At that point in my life, I just wanted to be done with school.

But what I soon realized was that an administrative assistant’s role was not the role for me. Let’s just say I was not good at it. That became apparent very quickly. I also realized that sitting behind a desk, working a 9-5 job was not what I wanted for my life. I felt this stirring, this calling to something different. I just didn’t know 100% what it would be or what mattered to me.

Today, as a professor, my goal is to help students discover their voice and develop their expertise so that they can impact and influence culture. Before graduating, I want them to know what’s important to them, what matters, and specifically, what success looks like for them, how God has defined success for them (not how the world defines success). I also want them to grasp whether or not an opportunity that comes their way is a good fit for them; is it the right opportunity for them in that season of life? I want them to have a good grasp of their personal values. I’m convinced, had I known my personal values, I could better understand what opportunities I should or should not pursue.

What are personal values? Personal values help guide your behavior and decisions. They help you decide what you will say yes to and what you will say no to. In a world filled with so much noise that is vying for your attention, personal values are a must when discerning the opportunities presented to you.

One of the most important questions you can answer when trying to decipher your personal values is: What’s important to me?

Over the years, I’ve come to understand what’s important to me, what my personal values are. And today, they guide me in everything I do, everything I commit to, and the boundaries I set in my life.

  • Faith: My faith is of utmost importance, and because of that, I have to be able to teach and share about my faith freely. My faith gives my life meaning.
  • Success: I’ve always wanted to be successful. As I’ve gotten older and hopefully wiser, I’ve come to understand the importance of knowing what success looks like for me (how God has defined success for me), not how the world or social media defines success. This has been SO freeing! What might be an excellent opportunity for someone may not be a perfect opportunity for me.
  • Adventure: I would feel held back if I was forced to follow the status quo and ended up doing the same thing for 20+ years. I need to be able to travel and explore. I love trying and experiencing new things! Every move, every challenge, and every trip is an adventure for me!
  • Flexibility: A 9-5 job in a cubicle, shuffling papers would cause me to feel defeated. I need to have the freedom to come and go and the opportunity to take part in things that are important and meaningful to me.
  • Growth: This probably explains why I have a doctorate. I always want to learn and grow. I want to learn new things, and I want to do them with excellence.
  • Meaningful Work: Whatever I put my hands to and give my time to, I want to know that it’s significant, that it’s making a difference. At one point in my life, I had to think through and evaluate what “meaningful work” looked like for me. Not what others were saying I should do, but rather what I felt God was calling me to.
  • Influence: As a follower of Christ, influence is important to me. I don’t influence to make myself look good, but rather, I influence to point others to God. This coincides with my personal value of faith.
  • Excellence: I’ve always been someone who wants to do everything with excellence (sometimes it gets the best of me when I try to do everything perfectly). As a Christ-follower, my work reflects Him, so my goal is to always do my work with excellence. Suppose an opportunity presents itself, but I don’t have the time or capacity to do it with excellence. In that case, I don’t do it.

These personal values guide me in everything. In 2016 I was meeting with someone who had an interest in me working and partnering with them. It was an opportunity that looked promising.  As the meeting went on, I remember thinking that this was not where I needed to be or what I needed to give my time to. My personal values were guiding my decision, and to this day, I have never regretted saying no to that opportunity. Honestly, my personal values “saved” me from something that would have been bad.

Today, let me encourage you to take some time to define what your personal values are. If you need some help, conduct a Google search around “examples of personal values.” You will find a plethora of information and lists to help you identify and determine your values. Knowing your personal values will strategically help you the next time you are trying to decide whether or not you should accept that job offer, work with that client, or whether or not you should say yes to that opportunity that came your way! Knowing your personal values will bring you freedom and allow you to succeed in such a way that matters to you and what God has laid out for you!

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