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The Reason Why Any Veterinarian Should Have Core Values

“I finally did it…Life threw me in the pits and I was living in survival mode for a while. But recently, I have been able to sit down and articulate what my values are. Now, I can decide on my objectives.”

These are the words of a 'So You're a Vet... Now What?' member, enthused after finally being able to write down their core values. Have you taken the time to work out what yours are? This could stem from a feeling, and then develop into an articulated value you can harness as a veterinarian. For example, ‘I value collaborative problem solving’, ‘I value the fostering of community’, ‘I value democratic decision making’, ‘freedom’, ‘intellectual growth’, ‘personal development.’ Whatever your values are, write them down now if you haven’t done so already.

I Have Articulated My Values, but Why is this Important?

Having values in the back of your mind is so important because they act as the GPS system to your behaviour. Say one of your values is ‘a commitment to personal development’. Later down the line, you find yourself struggling to connect with clients: they simply do not follow your recommendations. Because personal development is one of your values, you manage to identify that working on your emotional intelligence and negotiation skills might improve relationships with clients. This recognition allows you to embark on a non-clinical skills course on building client relationships. You successfully complete the course and notice that clients begin following your recommendations. On top of this, they leave the exam room with a smile!

Do you notice how values can steer behaviour and contribute to success?

Values are Inherently Linked to Objectives

Values are so important for any veterinarian, new or experienced, because they are inherently linked to objectives. They are like the foundations of which your structure can be built upon. 

Values provide the ‘why’. Say you value the fostering of growth in others, and then you encounter a stumbling block during your new community-focussed project. Those veterinarians that do not have a clear set of values likely do not have an overarching reason why they are completing the community project. For these people, a stumbling block becomes a dangerous cliff’s edge, and there is the tendency to abandon the project rather than pushing through. On the other hand, those veterinarians who have articulated their values, and who strive to foster growth in others, have the motivation to push them through hard times and continue with the project.

Let us think back to the Thrive member quote. In articulating their values, they were able to filter down into more specific objectives. Values generate direction, and motivate progression. They are the bulb from which growth evolves.

Indeed, a life without clear objectives becomes meaningless, and this is not living. One of the key human needs is the need for contribution. This means that we must feel as if we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves. It is all about perspective. Values can provide an element of blue sky thinking, which are to be harnessed and filtered through the creation of objectives.

Don’t Let Values Trip You Up

Now, one area where our values may trip us up is in working with one another. If values within a team are not aligned, this could cause clashes. For example, one colleague may value seriousness whilst another may value fun. 

Shared values mean a team can work cohesively towards shared goals. On the other hand, no set of values should be needlessly exclusive or stifle diversity. In fact, creative and innovative ideas are generated by diverse minds. Therefore, I encourage you to bear this in mind when articulating your own values or just generally working within a team.

Of course, this is all about balance. If there is something that strikes you or an action you do not agree with, ask them about it with compassion: ‘is there a reason you behaved in this way?’, ‘can I ask, what made you decide to take this path?’. You never know, in opening yourself up to curiosity, you may learn something yourself.

Furthermore, if you notice a strength in someone who you think you could learn from, don’t be afraid to ask them about it! For example, you may notice a team member has built loyal relationships with clients – something you value is the building of genuine relationships and the fostering of community. Get curious. Ask them how they approach clients and how they create conversation.

In sum, asserting values should run in tandem with creating diversity, not adversity. They can help you to notice the attributes you admire in others, and learn from them.

Take a Look at Your Values

Now you have written down your values, it is time to think about your objectives. These are the tangible goals you will set yourself that align with your values: the ‘what’ to your ‘why’. Ultimately, it is the objectives that are the key reason why every veterinarian should have core values. 

Values provide the vision, so you can achieve your goals.

If you found these tips useful, why not check out our twelve-module 'So You're a Vet... Now What?' course and build a successful and sustainable career in veterinary medicine:


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