Value your values
I was thinking the other day about some of my aspirations. I do this on a regular basis, to check on progress towards them and to see if any should be added, altered or removed altogether. This got me thinking about the more philosophical question of what my personal values are.
I had done this before, only subconsciously, so this time around, I thought I would do some reading and thinking around the subject, and, subsequently, share it with you nice folks!
Values are things that you believe are important in how you live your life; whether personal or professional. Values should determine your priorities, aspirations and they can be used as a measure for if life is turning out the way you want it to. In simple terms, when the things you do, say and think match with your personal values, life is usually pretty good. If there is not alignment, that’s when things can go wrong and you may experience unhappiness.
As a result, it can be a helpful process if you are you able to identify your values so that you can try to live your life in coherence with them.
Life can be much smoother when you acknowledge what your values are; you are more likely to be able to make decisions and plans that respect them. For example, if you value family/friend relationships, but your job dictates that you work 70-hour weeks, it is likely you will experience conflict and/or stress.
As stated before, understanding your values can really help you here; when you know your own values, you can use them to make decisions about how to live your life. So, take care and time to understand the priorities in your life, and you'll be able to determine the best direction for you and your aspirations
So how should you go about defining your values? A good way of doing this is to reflect back on your life; identify when you felt happy, proud and satisfied and were confident in the choices and decisions you were making.
Identify the times when you were happiest – what were you doing, who were you with, are there other contributing factors?
Identify the times when you were most proud – what was it that made you proud, was this feeling of pride shared with others, are there other contributing factors?
Identify the times when you were most satisfied – what desire/need was being satisfied, was the experience meaningful to your life, are there other contributing factors?
Once you have considered the answers to these questions (this will take time!) you should try to determine what your “top 10” values are.
Some examples of values include:
Making a difference
Once you have your “top 10” some say you should prioritise these in order of importance. I personally don’t agree with this as I believe each will be more or less as important as each other. The situations it may be useful to have some priority is where you have wildly different values that may be in competition with each other when it comes to making a choice. For me, my values are all fairly congruent, so I don’t see the purpose in ranking them as I feel they are all a part of what makes me, me and also, different values will hold more importance depending on the context in which they are applied.
After you have your “top 10”, it is important that you check them and confirm that they fit with your life and aspirations; Do they make you feel good about yourself? Are you proud of them? Would you be comfortable in sharing them with people you respect? If not, then you may need to revisit them and check to see if you were being truly honest with yourself. This is OK! Identifying and understanding your values is a challenging yet important exercise.
Life presents a series of decisions that will require you to make difficult choices. While typically many factors are involved, the critical one to be mindful of are your personal values. These tell you what kind of person you are or want to be and will provide guidelines for the course of action to take.
When making life decisions, if you are able to keep your values in mind, it will be easier for you to maintain personal integrity and to approach choices that you make with confidence. There will be the added benefit that by following the “rules” you give yourself the best chance of current and future happiness.
As your definition of success changes as you develop and experience, so too will your personal values; keeping in touch with your values is a lifelong exercise. You should continuously revisit this, especially if you start to feel out of balance and you can't work out why.
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