Identifying your values and igniting your passion

In our first event of the year, we kicked off with an exploration of values and how to harness them to ignite passion in your career. Women Who Lead’s sense of community and connection was alive with over 120 participants joining the session. 

We were honored to welcome three brilliant value-driven leaders to navigate the conversation alongside our Executive Director, Laura:

  • Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Sr. Advisor, EDI Initiatives & Adjunct Lecturer at Queen’s University 
  • Shalu Bains, Vice President, Performance & Business Intelligence at Trillium Health Partners 
  • Dr. Quynh Pham, Director, Centre for Global eHealth Innovation at University Health Network

So what did we learn about how we orient our values to our career choices and (re-)ignite the flame? 

Identifying your values is a worthy journey

The discussion opened with an idea that values and passion meet at an intersection: values ignite your passion and passion ignites your values. It is challenging to navigate the values that were “given” to you or impressed upon you by your upbringing, versus the values that are true to you—the ones you want to carve out and define for yourself. How do we untangle this tension?

Some helpful questions to kickstart reflection:

  • What’s important to me? 
  • What is meaningful to me? 
  • What excites me?
  • What brings me passion?
  • What can’t I do without in my life?
  • How can I be true to myself? 
  • How can I add value to the situation? 

Laura reminded us that you are both the main character and the narrator of your professional story. “Living your values” authentically is a fluid, ever-changing process, and that is OK. While our values (given or chosen) may shift overtime, the foundation of those values tends to remain constant over the course of our lives.

Finding the sweet spot

With some early insights into how we might identify our values, we’ll likely start to ask ourselves “Am I on the right track?” or “Is this where I’m supposed to be?”.

Celina offered an actionable, hands-on framework to participants. Imagine a diagram with three overlapping/intersecting triangles (remember Venn diagrams?) that asks the following questions:

  • What am I good at? 
  • What do I love?
  • Where can I add value? 

That intersection is the sweet spot of values intersecting with passion. We spend most of our lives seeking the next best thing, so why can’t we figure out what we do best, and do that? We are constantly (re-)calibrating those triangles overtime and it’s about continuously adapting our values to various situations that unfold in life.

And, for some, there may come a time when we need to unlearn our values. While our values might have been given to us early in life, through life experience and self-reflection, we can re-create the rationale for those values and perhaps even choose different values during a new chapter of our lives. 

For others, we may realize that our values live through our success. In other words, they are at the centre of your success. Your values live in the service of, or at the heart of, your career successes, bringing it back full circle to values intersecting passion and purpose. Values are an internal component of anything we do and they represent what matters most to you.

How does a values-driven approach fuel inclusivity?

Once we’re a bit more comfortable with our own values, it is essential that we live our values with an equity lens, meaning showing respect towards others, leading with compassion, appreciating others’ perspectives, backgrounds and needs that might be different from our own.   

You can absolutely use your values to drive change and shift priorities at your workplace and advocate for underrepresented voices. Difficult moments where you may have had to dig deep and draw strength from your values, could lead to ripple effects decades from now, and may impact and inspire future leaders. 

Staying rooted in your values during challenging times


“You won’t be the best version of yourself, if you’re not true to yourself.”

When your values are being challenged and/or compromised in a difficult situation, it can feel heavy. One helpful approach might be to ask yourself “What’s within my control? What assumptions am I holding about this?” By getting curious and being solution-oriented, you might be able to better shape the current situation that is causing you to be in conflict with your values. Drawing strength from your values during tough times requires bravery and grace, and might help you to uproot yourself from environments where you are not thriving, and move on to environments where you know you will thrive.

Bringing it all together

How do we best move forward as we become more familiar with our values? The importance of communication cannot be understated. If you share your values openly with your bosses, team members, and networks, people will adapt their communication with the knowledge of what matters to you. Surround yourself with those who can speak about their values very intentionally to help yourself develop this skill. Leverage the power of your professional and personal village. 

A final learning from our conversation highlighted the perhaps unseen impacts of authentically living your values. By living your values through your actions and in how you show up, you just might inspire others to authentically live their own values. Through our lived experiences and sharing those stories with others, we in turn solidify our own values. When we start from a place of value, we can open up possibility and ignite passion in our professional journeys.

Missed the live event? We’ve got you covered. Watch it here.

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