Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work.
They (should) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they’re probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to.
When the things that you do and the way you behave match your values, life is usually good – you’re satisfied and content. But when these don’t align with your values, that’s when things feel… wrong. This can be a real source of unhappiness.
This is why making a conscious effort to identify your values is so important.
Making value-based choices may not always be easy. However, making a choice that is aligned with your values will bring you inner and outer happiness and satisfaction.
How Values Help You
Values exist, whether you recognize them or not. Life can be much easier when you acknowledge your values – and when you make plans and decisions that honour them.
If you value family, but you have to work 70-hour weeks in your job, will you feel internal stress and conflict?
In these types of situations, understanding your values can really help. When you know your own values, you can use them to make decisions about how to live your life, and you can answer questions like these:
•What job should I pursue?
•Should I accept this promotion?
•Should I start my own business?
•Should I follow tradition, or travel down a new path?
So, take the time to understand the real priorities in your life, and you’ll be able to determine the best direction for you and your life goals!
As you move through life, your values may change. For example, when you start your career, success – measured by money and status – might be a top priority. But after you have a family, work-life balance may be what you value more.
As your definition of success changes, so do your personal values. This is why keeping in touch with your values is a lifelong exercise. You should continuously revisit this, especially if you start to feel unbalanced… and you can’t quite figure out why.
Defining Your Values
When you define your personal values, you discover what’s truly important to you. A good way of starting to do this is to look back on your life – to identify when you felt really good, and really confident that you were making good choices.
Step 1: Identify the times when you were happiest
Find examples from both your career and personal life. This will ensure some balance in your answers.
•What were you doing?
•Were you with other people? Who?
•What other factors contributed to your happiness?
Step 2: Identify the times when you were most fulfilled and satisfied
Again, use both work and personal examples.
•What need or desire was fulfilled?
•How and why did the experience give your life meaning?
•What other factors contributed to your feelings of fulfilment?
Step 3: Determine your top values, based on your experiences of happiness and fulfilment
Why is each experience truly important and memorable?
Step 4: Prioritize your top values
This step is probably the most difficult, because you’ll have to look deep inside yourself. It’s also the most important step, because, when making a decision, you’ll have to choose between solutions that may satisfy different values. This is when you must know which value is more important to you.
•Write down your 10 top values, not in any particular order.
•Look at the first two values and ask yourself, “If I could satisfy only one of these, which would I choose?” It might help to visualize a situation in which you would have to make that choice. For example, if you compare the values of career and travel, imagine that you must decide whether to apply for a job which will give you that career promotion in your city, or travel the world and gain some cultural and different life experiences.
•Keep working through the list, by comparing each value with each other value, until your list is in the correct order.
Step 5: Reaffirm your values
Check your top-priority values, and make sure they fit with your life and your vision for yourself.
•Do these values make you feel good about yourself?
•Would you be comfortable to tell your values to people you respect and admire?
•Do these values represent things you would support, even if your choice isn’t popular, and it puts you in the minority?
List your 10 values
List your top 5 values out of the 10 values previously identified
List your TOP 3 values from the 5 values previously identified
These 3 values are the ones that you truly believe are the way you wish to live and work in this period of your life.
Start making decisions in line with your values. When your life is aligned with your values you will achieve and enjoy balance and happiness!