Whether you realize it or not, you spend most of your life assessing the value of things. In fact, every decision you make is essentially a value analysis, where you’re more likely to decide on the option that has greater value to you. What’s more, every decision is also shaped by your values. So your values guide your decisions which are based on the value of something to you … get it?
To better demonstrate what I’m implying, consider this scenario:
First, let’s say that every morning when your alarm goes off you react by hitting snooze (sound familiar?). Doing so offers you a few extra minutes of sleep, but then you find yourself rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off in order to make it into work on time. You do this every. single. day. Whether or not you realize it, your decision to remain in the comfort of your bed holds greater value to you than the annoyances of rushing around in an anxiety-riddled stupor. You’ve made the decision that sleep is more valuable than the coffee you spill, the boss you piss off, or the spouse you annoy—who is often late because of your decision to hit snooze.
Now, let’s apply that logic to something much bigger. Consider this: you’ve decided that there is a real issue with education in America, and you value better education for low-income students and want to champion this cause. After some serious time exploring and researching, you find a non-profit that’s completely aligned with your beliefs and does amazing work.
Here’s where the tough part comes in. Your decision to get involved in improving education will dramatically change your life—in a good way, but your morning snooze routine is going to have to change. To volunteer on a regular basis, you’ll need to do it before work. Now, you’ll have to wake up an hour earlier than usual, plus the fifteen minutes snooze through—it means getting out of bed 75 minutes earlier three days a week! You even decide to eliminate late night TV so that you can get to bed earlier and perform at your best each morning. You do it because helping these kids and contributing to a cause with purpose is clearly more valuable to you than cozy time in your bed and Jimmy Kimmel.
See? Values shape your decisions. That’s why it is so important to have clearly defined values. When you don’t, you will be more likely to conform to whatever feels good in the moment—like your warm bed at 6 a.m., as opposed to making a conscious decision to lean into a greater purpose.
And for that matter, the more aligned your values are with your purpose a.k.a.your Why—the more likely you are to realize your best life.
So, how do you determine what you value? I recommend establishing your Purpose Pillars, which are in part based on your values. However, if you want to knock it out quickly, try this 3-step exercise.
- Write a list of things you value. For instance, honesty, compassion, creativity, spirituality, wealth—there are a lot of options! Don’t worry at this point about listing too many. You’ll take care of that next.
- Narrow the list. While it’s great if you listed upwards of 20 or 30 values, we all know that it’s difficult to really focus on a bunch of things at once. Review the list, along with your Purpose Pillars if you have them, and choose 4-5 core values that feel the truest to you and your core pillars.
- Practice your values. Write your values out and place them where you’ll see them daily. Read them aloud, memorize them, and act in accordance with them. When you’re faced with a tough decision, let your values be your guide, and if you find that they need to change, that’s ok! We as humans are always growing and evolving—our values should, too.
Once you start living out your values daily, you’ll feel the shift in the way you make decisions. Instead of living reactively or merely “going with the flow” you’ll make a conscious effort toward living a more authentic life—one that realizes a greater potential than you could have imagined.