The Costs of ‘Living Your Values’

September 2013, by So-Young Kang

People sometimes talk about ‘living your values’ and what it means.  In these conversations, we often nod our heads in agreement that we should have values and live them out. What sometimes gets missed in these conversations is the ‘costs’ of living your values especially when you really live them out. I question whether or not you are living your values if it does not come at any cost. I believe that — Living your values comes at a cost. Perhaps that’s why it is difficult to be in integrity with your values (please click for video: Living Your Values – Turning Intent into Action) all the time and why many individuals and organizations fall short.

“Living your values comes at a cost.” – So-Young Kang

I asked my team at Awaken Group what their views were on this topic and the following points are a result of what everyone shared:


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1)     You need to first define your values in order to live them.

Each person must identify their own personal values. What matters most to you? How do you want to live your life? What kind of person do you want to be?

2)     Living out your values means: consistency, alignment, and being true to who you are. It is essentially about living with integrity.

“It means my actions and words are consistently constant with my values and beliefs.”– Samantha Hoong

“Living my values means that I’m constantly seeking alignment in everything I do—from how I relate to people, to how I work, to how I approach sports and leisure activities.” – Will Tang

“Living my values means that my actions reflect what really matters most to me. I frequently evaluate my use of time, my investment of resources, and how I apply my talents in light of my core values.” – Adam Edgerly

“It means not changing who I am and my value system regardless of situations and circumstances. It also means who I am and what I do are consistent, whether in the eye of the public or when no one is watching.” – Sean Low

“It means not doing anything that I do not have peace with, even if it means that I have to pay a price for it.” – Ethan Chong

3)     Focusing on others is a powerful way to live out your values. This can include, for example, helping others reach their potential or customizing your communication style in a way that shows your appreciation for others. It is also about doing what is best for the team as a whole, rather than simply doing what is best for you.

“Working at Awaken Group has given me a unique opportunity to live my values. I value helping other people reach their potential and experience fulfillment. I appreciate the uniqueness of each person, and the beauty of cultural variety. Helping people understand and appreciate each other is one of the things Awaken Group does well. I love being a part of that.” – Adam Edgerly

“One of my values is love. Being empathetic and making deliberate effort to care for my teammates and customizing my approach to the way they like to be loved and appreciated.” – Samantha Hoong

4)     There are many different costs of living your values. The costs can include:

  • Time and efficiency: Often taking the time to think through how to communicate a message to honor the other person or give the person time and space to reflect may not be the most direct or efficient way of getting to an answer.

“The best and quickest way of living by “Individualization” is to ask a lot of questions and pay a lot of attention to details, sometimes through deep questions and spending a lot of time understanding their background, painful and joyful experiences, relationships, change in moods, etc. It takes time and effort to pay 100% attention to them. It can be tiring at times.” – Hyuk-Tae Kwon

“Managing these ‘doubts’ do cause delay & additional time factor (e.g., for follow-up and review or re-check). I sometimes forego time to be spent with my family, especially my child, and sometimes quiet time with God.” – Joy Teng

  • Investment in mindsets and behaviors: It takes conscious choice to live your values out every single day. It’s in the individual unique moments.

“Personally, it takes constant awareness and effort to practice honesty in love. Honesty alone is easy, but honesty in love requires you to think before speaking and to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” – Hanna Kim

  • Financial: There are often financial costs or risk of losing clients or talent due to the choice to be true to your values or not ‘bending’ the rules. Personally, it has cost us short-term revenue opportunities and business growth when we didn’t hire people who were not aligned to values despite a vast amount of expertise and experience.

“There are opportunities that I’ve had to turn down because they would require me to compromise or deny my values. I’ve also had to make hard choices for the benefit of clients or organizations that were not popular choices.” – Adam Edgerly

5)     Living out your values can help you grow as a person while benefitting everyone (yourself and those around you) in the long run.

While living your values can ‘cost’ you something emotionally, physically or financially, I asked our team why they choose to continue to do so. Their answers ranged from ‘making the world a better place’ to ‘constantly improving and developing myself’ to ‘better connecting with others.’

“I believe strongly in this value (honesty in love), and love it when others practice it on me so I must surely extend this courtesy to others, and believe that the world will be a better place if everyone in this world practices this value!” – Ethan Chong

The process of living my values is worth it because it means that I’m always growing, always questioning, and always learning because I’m pushing and refining myself.” – Will Tang 

“There is no way to please everyone. At the end of the day, what matters is the peace of mind that comes from having been true to yourself. I also believe there is a Creator who watches me, and I want to live in a way that ultimately pleases the One who made me. That is worth whatever it costs.” – Adam Edgerly

“It’s worth it because it enables a mindset that is others-focused, rather than just saying whatever you want. So in the long run, it helps the people I know as well as myself. It helps build more positive relationships.” – Hanna Kim

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When you are conscious of the ‘cost’, will you still live your values? Have you counted the cost? Will it still be worth it?

We hope so.