Values and Goals

Students discuss during class

Values are a set of underlying beliefs that often drive what you do and the choices you make, including the career you choose. You might not be conscious of the values you have or even how you got them. Values are passed along from earlier generations in your family. In addition, your own life experiences can shape your values. Over time, your values may shift, change and/or be reprioritized.

Some common values are shared by health professions includes values such as empathy, diligence, commitment to human service, and compassion. Even the term “care” is a value in itself; when you care for someone, you put their needs before your own.

Identify what you value by examining your thoughts and your actions. Here are some interesting and fun ways to learn about your values:

  • Make a list of what you think you value. Next, ask people who know you well to identify your values, but have them make their own list without looking at your list. When they're done, compare the two lists. Values can often be most easily recognized by others who know you well. They may identify values you had overlooked and took for granted.
  • Write your own personal eulogy. By identifying what you want people to say about you when you are gone, it can give you great insight into the things you value most. It can be a very telling exercise to help you illustrate your true values.
  • Make an "Activities vs. Values" list. Start by making two columns on a piece of paper. In the first column, identify how you spend your time in a week, such as percent of time spent working, studying, hobbies, etc. Put the activities you spend the most time doing at the top of the list. In the second column, make a list of your values. Prioritize your list of values from most important to least important, putting the most important ones at the top. Next, compare the two lists. Look at the value with the highest priority to the place you spend your most time. Are they in alignment? This will help you recognize if there are gaps between your values and your behavior. If any gaps exist, ask yourself what changes you can make to better align your values and behavior.

Checkpoint: Do your values align with your chosen career?

After you have explored your values, it is important to understand how those values align with the career options you are considering and pursuing. Explore the values identified for different health careers to see if your values are similar to the profession(s) you are interested in. Another way to learn more about the values in specific fields is to talk with professionals in the field. What do those individuals identify as common and important values?