05/03/2015 11:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Build a Career (and Life!) That's Aligned With Your Values

We live in a world where it's easy to feel pushed into job duties that are not in alignment with our sense of right and wrong. Perhaps you've been asked to sell goods or services that you think cause more problems than they solve. Maybe your employer produces merchandise that exploits workers in developing countries. Possibly you've even been asked to do something unethical -- like doctoring tax forms, for example -- by your boss.

The sad truth is that it's not uncommon to find ourselves in a job that makes us feel bad. The even sadder truth is that many of us stay in those jobs because we don't know how else to pay the mortgage, fill the larder, or finance private school educations.


Chose to Focus on Your Inner Voice
But what if, instead of focusing on what's keeping us down, we chose instead to focus on our internal selves? In the highly acclaimed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, late author Stephen R. Covey recommends that, in order to build the life we want, we "start with the end in mind." In other words, before we can make effective life choices, it's important to take the time to develop self-awareness by uncovering the things we find most important.

To "start with the end in mind," Covey suggests we imagine a scenario where we're witness to our own funeral. Imagine, he instructs, how you want mourners to remember you. Do you want to be remembered as a family-oriented person, a visionary, an artist? Perhaps even all three. The fundamental basis of the exercise is to figure out what we most want to achieve through this life.

Move Forward With a Sense of Purpose
When we know what we ultimately want from our time here on earth, it's easier to move forward with purpose. The knowledge of what is deeply important to us gives us the power to manage our lives day-to-day in a way that drives us closer toward our end goals -- and helps keep us from getting off track.

Here's another tip: When we know what our highest level values are, it's easier to say no to opportunities that are not aligned with our beliefs. We avoid job opportunities with an exploitative culture or we feel empowered to say no to an unethical boss. There is more than one way to make a living and, by knowing what we won't stand for -- and what we will -- we can make decisions that open doors to opportunities that fit within our moral standards.

If you want your work to be more values-based, look deep inside your own life and see what you uncover. Take the time to build a clear image of what you want to stand for -- and who you want to be. There's no doubt that developing a blueprint for life is hard work. The good news, though, is that the job of your dreams is waiting for you just around the bend. All you need to do is slow down, breath, reflect, let go, and then create it.

Photo licensed by BigStockPhoto/b11mdana