What Are Your Values? Deciding What’s Most Important in Life

How would you define your values?

Before you answer this question, you need to know what, in general, values are.

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.

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 honor them.

If you value family, but you have to work 70-hour weeks in your job, will you feel internal stress and conflict? And if you don’t value competition, and you work in a highly competitive sales environment, are you likely to be satisfied with your job?

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 compromise, or be firm with my position?
  • 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  !

Tip:

Values are usually fairly stable, yet they don’t have strict limits or boundaries. Also, 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 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.

As you go through the exercise below, bear in mind that values that were important in the past may not be relevant now.

Defining Your Values

When you define your 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 proud

Use examples from your career and personal life.

  • Why were you proud?
  • Did other people share your pride? Who?
  • What other factors contributed to your feelings of pride?

Step 3: 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 fulfillment?

Step 4: Determine your top values, based on your experiences of happiness, pride, and fulfillment

Why is each experience truly important and memorable? Use the following list of common personal values to help you get started – and aim for about 10 top values. (As you work through, you may find that some of these naturally combine. For instance, if you value philanthropy, community, and generosity, you might say that service to others is one of your top values.)

Accountability
Accuracy
Achievement 
Adventurousness 
Altruism 
Ambition 
Assertiveness 
Balance 
Being the best 
Belonging 
Boldness 
Calmness 
Carefulness 
Challenge 
Cheerfulness 
Clear-mindedness 
Commitment 
Community
Compassion 
Competitiveness
Consistency 
Contentment 
Continuous Improvement
Contribution 
Control 
Cooperation 
Correctness 
Courtesy 
Creativity 
Curiosity 
Decisiveness 
Democraticness
Dependability 
Determination 
Devoutness 
Diligence 
Discipline 
Discretion 
Diversity 
Dynamism 
Economy 
Effectiveness 
Efficiency 
Elegance 
Empathy 
Enjoyment 
Enthusiasm 
Equality
Excellence
Excitement 
Expertise 
Exploration 
Expressiveness 
Fairness 
Faith 
Family-orientedness 
Fidelity 
Fitness 
Fluency 
Focus 
Freedom 
Fun 
Generosity 
Goodness
Grace 
Growth 
Happiness 
Hard Work
Health
Helping Society 
Holiness 
Honesty 
Honor
Humility 
Independence 
Ingenuity 
Inner Harmony
Inquisitiveness 
Insightfulness 
Intelligence 
Intellectual Status
Intuition
Joy 
Justice 
Leadership
Legacy 
Love 
Loyalty 
Making a difference 
Mastery 
Merit
Obedience 
Openness 
Order 
Originality 
Patriotism
Perfection 
Piety 
Positivity
Practicality 
Preparedness 
Professionalism 
Prudence 
Quality-orientation
Reliability 
Resourcefulness 
Restraint 
Results-oriented
Rigor 
Security 
Self-actualization
Self-control 
Selflessness 
Self-reliance 
Sensitivity 
Serenity 
Service 
Shrewdness 
Simplicity 
Soundness 
Speed 
Spontaneity 
Stability 
Strategic
Strength 
Structure 
Success
Support 
Teamwork 
Temperance 
Thankfulness 
Thoroughness 
Thoughtfulness 
Timeliness 
Tolerance
Traditionalism 
Trustworthiness 
Truth-seeking 
Understanding 
Uniqueness 
Unity 
Usefulness 
Vision 
Vitality

Step 5: 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 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 service and stability, imagine that you must decide whether to sell your house and move to another country to do valuable foreign aid work, or keep your house and volunteer to do charity work closer to home.
  • Keep working through the list, by comparing each value with each other value, until your list is in the correct order.

Tip:

If you have a tough time doing this, consider using Paired Comparison Analysis   to help you. With this method, you decide which of two options is most important, and then assign a score to show how much more important it is. Since it’s so important to identify and prioritize your values, investing your time in this step is definitely worth it.

Step 6: 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?
  • Are you proud of your top three values?
  • Would you be comfortable and proud 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?

When you consider your values in decision making, you can be sure to keep your sense of integrity and what you know is right, and approach decisions with confidence and clarity. You’ll also know that what you’re doing is best for your current and future happiness and satisfaction.

Making value-based choices may not always be easy. However, making a choice that you know is right is a lot less difficult in the long run.

Key Points

Identifying and understanding your values is a challenging and important exercise. Your values are a central part of who you are – and who you want to be. By becoming more aware of these important factors in your life, you can use them as a guide to make the best choice in any situation.

Some of life’s decisions are really about determining what you value most. When many options seem reasonable, it’s helpful and comforting to rely on your values – and use them as a strong guiding force to point you in the right direction.

 

SOURCE: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_85.htm

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