What Are Your Values? Deciding What’s Most Important in Life
WHAT ARE VALUES?
Values are what define the very core of your being. They define who you are. Values are at the heart of your life.
We are all part of the human race and thus quite similar in many ways. However, there are subtle differences between us and these are what make us unique. Even when two or more people look completely alike, there will still be differences resulting from their values.
Values are the things which are most important to you. The things that you consider above all else. They are powerful enough to make you sacrifice any comfort and convenience you may have. This is because, when you go against your values, you cannot escape the feeling of guilt which follows.
Your conscience, which is an integral part of you, keeps track of your values. When you go against your values, your conscience aches and calls to your attention the wrong you have committed. However, if you ignore your conscience often enough, it takes the cue from you and adapts.
It recognizes that your values have changed. This is how for example, you can move from starting small with a bad habit and end up getting very deep in it. The value which once classified the habit as bad, changed and you quickly learned the new habit.
The importance of values
Values are very important in your life. They help shape your life and even determine how much success you will have. Consider the following importances of values and you will understand why you need to identify and stick to your values.
1. Find purpose in life
Your purpose in life is the difference you strongly feel you are supposed to make while living on this earth. This usually refers to what you will do to make a difference in the lives of other people. And for that to happen, you will have made some considerable sacrifices.
Your purpose will drive you to take action even when you do not have any support from friends or family. When you do not have any means, you would see no problem in parting with your property so as to facilitate the fulfillment of your purpose.
In itself, a purpose can be big and daunting; one that not many people would be willing to embrace. Yet if you embrace it and run with it, you will be celebrated. Many of those who will celebrate you have little capacity to fully understand what you went through behind the scenes.
Your values sit right at the heart of your purpose. They are the ones which point you on the direction you should go and the path you should take. This is critical because if you embark on a journey of a purpose you have embraced yet it is not aligned to your values, you will easily get frustrated.
With frustration, you are likely to quit so as to take up a different purpose. As unfortunate a situation as it may be, your purpose is not like a career which can be changed any time. Your purpose is a long-term journey which you embark on and the goal should always be on your mind.
Your values help you determine what your purpose is by making known to you the deep things which move your heart. These are the things which when touched, be it positively or negatively, you are bound to respond.
2. Build your self-esteem
Your values help you build your self-esteem by increasing your awareness of yourself. Self-awareness enables you to understand who you are, what drives you forward and what you need to do to have a better life.
This becomes evident when through self-awareness, you are able to identify the emotions which are influencing your life moment by moment. This is great as it empowers you to operate above and beyond the limits caused by emotions.
Emotions can limit you when for example, they make you irritable. You may not be able to take it when people disagree with your point of view. This will bring the effect of people preferring to stay away from you.
Eventually, you will not be able to develop a team to work with yet you need people for success. More so, self-awareness is a key ingredient for the highly-acclaimed skill of emotional intelligence.
Once you know your values, you become comfortable with yourself. You will not seek to be like others who are their original self. Instead, you will build your own self in the way you know is best for you. As you become more comfortable with yourself, your self-esteem goes up.
3. Build your character
Nothing counts like a solid character. Character is what we all seek in order top be sure that someone will remain true to their words. That they will not disappoint when times become difficult. This is what we seek when employing people or picking business partners.
But just how do you get character? It’s all in the values.
Your character is defined as a combination of the qualities you have. These qualities come from sticking to what you stand for. If you stand for politeness for example, you will be known to be respectful. Everyone will know that despite being in an argument, you can never lash out at people.
If you value truth and always speak the truth no matter what, it will be known that you cannot lie. You will be known to have integrity. It will then be easy for people to trust you.
Identifying these values will certainly help you solidify their place in your life. The more you are aware of them, the more you can stick to them because they act as a light to direct your path. As you uphold them in your daily life, then they start shining and they are what people get to see.
4. Make better decisions
Making good decisions is never an easy thing for a majority of people. And when it comes to businesses, it becomes more difficult. The reasons for this difficulty abound. From the need to ensure stakeholders are happy with the decision to employees being comfortable with any coming changes.
There is also the need to consider the opinions of top managers and any consultants that may be part of the business. Generally, the more the number of people to be consulted, the more time it takes to reach a decision. But you still need other people’s input, so what do you do?
As an individual or business, when you know your values, they will direct your decision-making processes. The process becomes fairly simple. All you have to do is check whether the various options available are in line with your values.
How exactly do your values help?
For example, one of your values may be integrity. You may then be in a situation where you need to explain to a customer why his order has not been delivered on time. Some of the suggested explanations may be about the lack of raw materials, a problem with the delivery contractor you have etc.
Instead of scratching your head wondering which of these sounds most convincing, you will simply check with your values and decide to tell the truth. You will understand that this might make the client turn red in anger but the most important thing for you is that your conscience doesn’t condemn you.
While communicating with the client, you may apologize and inform of the steps you have taken to prevent a similar occurrence. It is possible that your client will see the sense of what you have explained and give you the chance to correct your mistake.
In such a case, remember to point to the client that you are acting in line with your value of walking in integrity. This might earn you a lot of respect and more business as opposed to lying and being found out.
“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” – Roy E. Disney
5. Gain respect
Your values bring you respect from both yourself and others because they make you have a stand even when others don’t. Your values ensure that you do not become one of those people who are easily influenced to do things they do not wish to do.
This is important because you will never accomplish your life’s goals if you keep operating under the influence of others.
With respect, you will be able to often have what you need to achieve your goals. Those around you will recognize that you are serious in whatever you are pursuing and will give you the space.
This is contrary to when you are among the majority who are just moving along life and get silenced any time they mention their dreams. Since they haven’t gone out of the crowd to prove their strength to do it, they will simply never achieve those dreams.
6. Define your goals
You need to have goals which you are seeking to achieve in life. It is however possible that you don’t have them. All you may have is a desire of success thinking that it will bring about a good life. That will lead you into great disappointments.
In case you are yet to realize this, success is not measured by the amount of money you have.
Neither is it gauged by the amount of material wealth you possess. Success is all about achieving your goals and your goals come from your values. For example, if your values include compassion and a desire to help the elderly, your goal may be to open and run an orphanage.
The moment you start and successfully run an orphanage, then you will have a sense of satisfaction that could not have come through any other way. You may have used all your money or maybe the money you have is what is paying for all expenses.
Yet your joy will not be affected because the most important thing for you in life has been done.
Your values are therefore essential in helping you define your goals and work towards achieving them.
7. Choose the right career or business idea
Just like in the above point, your values will come in handy when you need to choose the career path to follow. With many options potentially causing confusion, you will be able to make a better choice than most of your friends.
Since all careers come with different demands, you will basically be making compromises in order to fit into a certain career. This is normal and not a cause for worry. The problem comes in when you later realize that you compromised on an important part of your life without immediately knowing it.
An example of how this could happen is choosing to become a surgeon. Surgeons are usually busy and could be called upon to assist at any time of the day or night. Some surgeries may take several hours and there may be two or more to be done in one day.
Although you may rest, it may not be adequate if you desire to have ample time with your spouse and children. If this realization comes late in life, you may become stressed about the possible need to switch careers. Or, live a dissatisfied life while maintaining the chosen career.
If on the other hand you had considered your value for spending time with family, you would have chosen a different career. Maybe one where you will work from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday only.
8. Enjoy life
Enjoying life comes from the satisfaction of achieving your goals. If you don’t achieve your goals, you keep working towards them even when you are old. Alternatively, you may give up on them and start pushing your kids to take the path you were on so you can have the achievement through them.
Others may just give up once old age catches up with them and they live their retirement lives full of regrets. None of these unfortunate circumstances will occur if you used your values to determine what your goals are. You would then have worked towards them and subjected your decisions to your values.
Living life according to your values has the benefit of giving you joy even before you retire from active work. Living by your values guarantees small amounts of joy every single day.
For example, decisions are made every day. Making the wrong decisions end up causing you unnecessary stress. But what if you didn’t make wrong decisions?
What you need to consider here is the standard which you are seeking to live by. When you know your values and confidently choose to stick to them, you will find that the decisions you make secure your sense of peace on the inside.
Whereas stressed people will seek to go on an expensive vacation so as to temporarily forget their stress, you will still be comfortable without the vacation because you rarely get high levels of stress.
If you were to go on vacation, you will have no dread of returning to work because your work is not stressful for you. This way, you enjoy life for a very long time. Possibly for the majority of your life.
The connection between your values, desires and goals
Since we have talked about your values and your goals, it would be good to see what place desires have in your life.
We all have desires and they may push us towards attaining some things. Those things should however not be confused with life goals. The difference may be subtle for others, yet very distinct for some. Still, you can make your desires your goal and seek to attain them.
The difference between a desire and a goal can somehow be likened to the difference between a want and a need.
Desires are generally things which when attained, they do not necessarily add much value to your life. They may give you a certain level of happiness and sense of fulfillment but they are very temporary in their nature.
An example of a desire is living lavishly. This can easily become a goal for someone and is actually the case for many people. Fueled by the lavish lifestyles celebrities and billionaires live as shown on TV, many people desire to have money so they can also live the “good” life.
Although there is no problem with living large, a bigger question arises as to whether your living large adds any real value to you as a person. Apart from the status and definite comfort and great conveniences, no real satisfaction is achieved through this.
This does not mean that the rich should be condemned. Anyone who has worked hard should be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor. To balance things, some focus needs to be given to the satisfaction of the soul.
HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR VALUES
If there are so many valuable benefits of knowing and living by your values, then it is important to know how to identify them.
You will be surprised that contrary to what you may have thought or heard, identifying your values is really easy. All you need to do is take some time to conduct this easy exercise. It is necessary to take some time to do it since it may require you to remind yourself of some things you have forgotten.
You will also do well to have a pen and notebook or any writing area. These are for listing down your values as you discover them. As you will learn from the exercises below, you might end up with quite a long list. We will however show you how to shorten it so you have values which you can keep tabs on.
There are two questions which you will use to dig into your past. What you come up with as answers, will be your list of values. Afterwards, you will also see how to make them memorable.
What were your most fulfilling moments?
Remember that your values indicate the things which have the guaranteed potential of bringing you maximum fulfillment. This question will therefore help you “discover” those particular things.
When we talk of fulfillment, what is meant is the feeling that you have done something that is truly worthwhile. Something which despite possibly having taken you a lot of time and effort, you do not regret it. In fact, you feel so much joy about it.
Watch the below video to get an understanding of how to live a fulfilled life.
If this is a project you were working on, fulfillment is not necessarily the completion of the project. It could as well be the small challenge that came up which you have dealt with. For example, you may have been part of a study group and there is a group assignment given.
Among yourselves, you divided the assignment into smaller tasks and assigned responsibilities to each one accordingly. Your responsibility could have been compiling the final report. Once you had the input from everyone else, you sat to work on the report.
As you did this, you noticed inconsistent information from some members and generally-contradicting information when the full text was put together. This prompted you to call the involved members so as to have a joint meeting to reconcile the information.
It may have taken you a lot of extra time to go through their work with them and probably help them with improvements. It may have been as though you are doing the work on their behalf. Once it’s all done however, you feel good that you were able to come up with a solution and had a great report awaiting presentation.
After identifying the moment, you should check what caused you the joy of feeling fulfilled. These are what your values are. In this case, they could be teamwork, helping others with their work, accuracy and excellence in what you do.
Once you have identified the things which you valued most in that situation, then move on to another situation. You can work on this list in the way that makes the exercise easiest for you. You can either pick one situation and finish with it or list all recalled situations then go through them one after the other.
You should not rush yourself through this exercise. It is quite obvious that you cannot remember all of your best moments at once. You can therefore take several days. Just list the values or situations down as soon as you remember them.
What were your most disappointing moments?
Wondering how disappointments could indicate your values?
This question works just like the above one but with differences in the situations being remembered and the list of words you will come up with.
If your memory is perfect, you will not need to use this question because you will remember everything. But considering there are virtually no humans with a perfect memory, this question comes to your aid.
Primarily, this question will lead you to a list of things you do not want to experience in your life. From that list, all you will do is get the opposite word and you are sorted. The idea behind this is the fact that if for example you don’t like arguments, then you like peace. If you don’t like being at the front leading people, then you most likely prefer supporting group projects.
It is possible that not all opposites will describe you. All the same, they will paint a very good picture of what your preferences are. Also, from the list you will come up with, there will still be need to go through the values again so as to weed out any which don’t represent you very well.
To show you how this can work, let’s look at an example situation.
You are in a group setting and have an assignment. The work has been broken down and responsibilities distributed among the members. Like in the above case, you are the one to compile the final report.
You take charge of that responsibility and give a deadline by which every member should have submitted their work for the final report to be prepared. According to you, you have given everyone ample time while also ensuring you have enough time to read through their work and probably make changes.
You all agreed that once the report is finished, you will meet to review it together. You have everything planned such that in case someone raises an issue and there is need to make corrections to the report, your group will be able to do it before the lecturer’s deadline.
Your own deadline lapses and two of the group members are yet to submit their work. They also fail to communicate about the delays such that you have to call them a few hours after going through what has been done by the other members.
This angers you but you manage to engage them in a friendly and respectful manner. They explain the difficulty which they faced and promise to deliver within two days. This is too much time for you and you all agree on one day. They finally deliver almost at the end of the second day.
You make it known to them that they have greatly inconvenienced the group by not keeping to the agreed timelines. You also mention that they have made your work more difficult since you have to work late into the night and won’t have time to re-edit the report in case there are any errors.
You end up not managing to do the group review of the report and after the presentation which was marked with many questions which your group couldn’t answer, you were awarded with a “PASS.”
Whereas your group did not fail, the score was way below your target. This dented your individual score sheet as you got a lower average score.
Your list of values
To get your values, list down all the things that made you angry. Include the things to which you attribute the average performance. You may end up with things like lack of communication, lack of commitment, poor time management, inconveniences and poor co-ordination.
The opposite of these (not necessarily dictionary opposites) could be listed respectively as good communication, commitment, good time management, convenience, co-ordination and teamwork. More than these, you can see that you value being well prepared, accuracy and success.
You will thus realize that looking at both positive and negative situations of your past will lead you to discovering the things which matter to you.
Remember that you will be better off making time for this exercise. Do not be in a hurry to complete it. Take your time and be as comprehensive as possible. If you do this well, you will have a list of values that truly reflect you.
This is crucial because you will use this to come up with your value statement which you will always abide by. Remember that living by your values gives you stability as you are able to make better decisions and do the things which will get you moving towards your goals in life.
Picking your values from a list
In case you think the above method is too time-consuming, we have come up with an option which might save you some time. The option is a list of common values which you can go through and pick the values you feel describe you.
As much as we are presenting this option to you, we recommend you use the above questions to identify your values. This is because taking time to do that will help you know yourself better.
While using this list, take care not to pick what seems good instead of what truly defines you. Remember that this exercise is to help you find what will help you make the best of your life on earth.
With that in mind, below is the list.
Condensing your list
It is very likely that either through the questions or list you have come up with a long list of different values. These need to be condensed so you can easily make reference to them. You will do this by following the below three steps.
- Put related words together – your long list contains values which are somewhat related to one another. Write these together such that you have a group of related values. For example, you may have a group of values such as courage, boldness, toughness and bravery.
- Name the groups – each group of values should have a name. The name of the group will be a value by itself since it is what will describe the rest of the values in the group. If you find this to be difficult, consult a thesaurus.
- Putting it all together – take all the group names and write them as a new list of values. Do not get rid of the values which are represented by these group names. Whereas these group names are now your primary values, the “group members” are what you could call the definitions of the primary values. They are simply what your values mean.
Coming up with your values statement
Having identified the values which define you, it’s important that you come up with a way of remembering them. If you remember them, then the chances are high that you will use them in deciding the important things in life.
And what better way than to come up with a statement that says it all?
When you think of companies’ mission and vision statements, they easily tell you what those companies are all about. Those statements serve as powerful reminders of what is to be achieved.
This shall work in a similar way. You need a statement that reminds you of what you are all about.
Let’s look at some example values statements to guide you in making your own. Remember that this is all about you and no one else. Therefore, as much as you can make up a fancy statement, do not do it with the intention of making it sound good for others. It should sound good to you.
Example values statements
- Values: Courage, Success, Communication and Teamwork
- Values statement: With excellent communication, I team up with others to courageously pursue success.
- In this value statement, you boldly point out that you value success. You however don’t work alone but with others, you face whatever challenges come and pursue success to the very end.
- Values: Joy, Hope, Selfless, Meaning and Love
- Values statement: It is my joy to inspire hope and show people love as I selflessly serve and help them find meaning in life. It is evident from this values statement that your primary concern is to give people hope and show them love. And going beyond empty talk, you selflessly give away your time and effort to help them live a life that is full of meaning. And the crowning part of it is that doing this gives you joy and satisfaction. This is what gives you a sense of fulfillment.
Living out your values
The final step towards making your values a daily reality is by ensuring that they are in your memory at all times. This is very important especially when you are getting started. So how do you do it?
You can do it in different ways depending on your preferences but below we give you two simple yet effective ways. You have some amount of creativity in you. So, put that to work.
- Screensavers – this is where you make use of your smartphone and computer. Instead of having a screensaver of just anything else, cars, houses etc, why not have one showing you your values? This can be achieved using some creative calligraphic writing of your values statement and saving it as a picture. Setting this as a screensaver for your phone and/or computer is a great way to remind yourself of what is most important to you.
- Songs – music is powerful. You most likely remember how you used some musical tunes to remember necessary facts for your exams while in school. These are called mnemonic devices. Instead of just utilizing them for your presentations, why not use them for your values statement too?
Your values are one of the most basic things about yourself that you need to identify. They will help you stay focused on the journey you want to make in life. More than that, the result will be a great reward—life satisfaction.
You get to work on a Monday morning and as you prepare to get busy, a colleague passes by your desk, …