The word “values” is a bit of a buzz word in the personal development and self-improvement space.
When something is valuable to you, it’s important, it’s significant. It’s something you appreciate, you treasure and often has some sort of personal meaning.
Everyone has values, whether they are consciously aware of them or not. Our values guide our decisions, and our decisions drive our beliefs, our behaviours and ultimately our life.
However, there are times when we are acting against our values, and this is usually when we start feeling upset, anxious or frustrated at our life and the way things play out. This is why knowing what your values are is so important.
Knowing your values can help you to:
- React to different situations in a way that is most aligned with what’s important to you
- Make informed decisions confidently based on what’s important to you, and
- Increase your overall happiness
Living in alignment with your values (i.e. what’s truly important to you) = ultimate happiness
It makes complete sense – that if you spend your time, efforts and energy on the thoughts, beliefs and experiences that are important to you, you will be happier.
It’s the secret to living your life on your terms.
So first, let me run you through WHY knowing your values is something that you need to invest in RIGHT NOW. Then, I will take you through a simple (and free!) way to uncover your values and how to make sure you are living intentionally in alignment with what’s important to you.
Why should I care?
Short answer: You will be happier with the decisions you make and their outcomes.
The long answer is a bit… well, longer.
Neuroscientists and psychologists have estimated that we make approximately 35,000 conscious decisions every day (with over 200 decisions made relating to food alone – a statistic I wholeheartedly believe). Each of these decisions have a corresponding outcome (or consequence). Choice A leads you one way, while Choice B leads you another way. And then a whole new set of choices become available to you. It’s no wonder than more and more people describe themselves as “indecisive”. Not every decision will be one of massive consequence. But with thousands of decisions to be made each day, a good majority of those choices have the power to change your life. Even if it’s in the tiniest way.
The problem here is that a lot of our immediate day-to-day decisions have repercussions that aren’t really considered until two weeks have passed and you wish you made a different call.
Choosing to sleep in instead of getting up early could mean that you hit 4 o’clock in the afternoon feeling like you hadn’t done anything that day. That can lead to feeling down on yourself. It could drain your motivation to do anything else. Then you’ve got an entire day you have to write off to feeling sorry for yourself.
Choosing the quicker and “easier” fast food option might save you a few minutes and a bit effort now, but then a few months down the track of this habit and you’re not as beach-ready as you wanted to be.
I could come up with plenty more examples, but honestly those might not have held any emotional sway for you. Because values, like fingerprints, are unique to us. Those two examples hold emotional sway for me because of my own values. You might value a good sleep in on a weekend for relaxation more than getting work done, and so the crappy feeling that I described above might not apply to you.
That’s why knowing your own values is so important. They determine your decisions, but they also determine your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. The only way to change your behaviour is to get emotional.
Knowing your own values is crucial because they have the power to, quite literally, turn your life around.
Let’s take the example I gave earlier about choosing to sleep in instead of getting up early. If I value making an impact through creating content on this website more than feeling sorry for myself and surrendering all control of my emotions (pretty logical choice right?), then I can use that knowledge to choose a completely different path. I might hit 4 o’clock in the afternoon, start to feel bad that I hadn’t done anything meaningful that day, but then choose to spend the next hour doing something meaningful instead of feeling down on myself which leads to draining my own motivation and having to write off the entire day.
Knowing your values is the surest way to live as close to YOUR perfect life as possible. Not only will it increase the likelihood of positive outcomes, but it can also make negative outcomes a bit easier to handle.
Your Values, In Order of Value
No one can really tell you what your values are. However people can probably take a guess based on the way you carry yourself, how you respond to situations and by your thoughts and beliefs. Below is an exercise which is key to lessening the guilt in decision-making, to making it easier to say no and to feel more confident in your choices.
First, we will figure out what your values are, and whether they are “destination-values” or “vehicle-values” (I’ll explain, I promise!)
Then, we will rank them.
So in determining your values you need to ask yourself: What is most important to you in your life?
During this process you need to recognise the difference between destination-values and vehicle-values. Which are the things that really matter to you, and which are the things you value for what it can give you.
For example, your vehicle-value might be amazing grades. So you study hard and you work towards achieving those amazing grades. But costing on the grades themselves isn’t sustainable. Your destination-value can be found by uncovering what amazing grades would mean to you. It could be prestige, the feeling of pride in your work. It could be the freedom that comes with having open doors and numerous opportunities, feeling like you don’t need to be limited and that you can do everything you want to do.
The destination-values are the ones that really pull us through when it gets tough.
“We must get clear about what is most important in our lives and decide we will live by these values, no matter what.”
Once you’ve listed out your end-values, it’s time to rank them in order of importance.
Being able to utilise your values in your decision-making process, in lessening the guilt and increasing your confidence in your choices comes from utmost clarity. Because what if you’re choosing between two things that you value? How do you decide then?
I speak from experience when I say that you can have a multitude of values. Valuing your career and your family isn’t an indication of your lack of focus or drive. And you don’t necessarily have to definitely choose one or the other. But when you’re choosing between attending an important meeting or coming home on time for dinner, or between making it to your friend’s birthday party or not calling in sick, making a decision that you regret later on becomes more likely when you don’t go into the decision prepared.
Decision making is a skill. And just like any skill, it needs to be practised and you can get better at it.
I’m here to help you get better at it!
Oh, and by the way – these rankings will shift. You have to allow yourself the kindness of reevaluating what’s most important to you. Circumstances change, heck we change. Be honest with your rankings. Put them in order of what’s most honest to you, not what you think it should be.
So there you have it! Your list of values in ranking order. The next time you find yourself stuck between two choices, refer back to these values to see what’s more important to you. If one of your options isn’t even on your list (and you know it doesn’t belong there), then you can confidently say no and know it’s because you have your priorities in order!
P.S. I value you <3