The Value Of Knowing Your Values


girl writing down her values

Do you know your values?

You need to know your values and revisit them often. We hear this often from high-level, successful individuals. It’s a recurring theme, especially in religious contexts. Why is it so important? 

I used to be far in the ‘what a stupid cliche of course I know what my values are’ camp. I mean, how can you survive daily life if you don’t know your values? How can you make choices without knowing your values? We must all know our values intuitively. Why bother taking the time to write them down?

Through my journey of self-improvement, I kept hearing the value of writing our your values. Over and over. Eventually, I bit the bullet and set out time to write them. I assumed it would be incredibly easy, pointless, and I’d move on quickly. That is, until I actually sat down to write them out. It was far more difficult than I had imagined.

Knowing your values is harder than it seems.

My struggle was verbalizing what I truly valued most. Passion. Wait. What the hell does that mean. I prefer having high energy. What…that’s not one of my most important beliefs. Scratch that. The words kept coming, but I only wanted to list absolutely essential core values. It took a long time to get the wording exact without filling thirty pages. I had to keep combining different values, filtering them up into higher values.

I also had an issue defining my values in a way they meant something to me. I started with a list of words, but eventually got frustrated. Standalone words didn’t have enough context to build the necessary emotion. They were just…..words to me. For some, single words work marvelously, for me they didn’t mean much.

After a few months and many, many iterations I finally had a list I felt confident about. Great – I spent a ton of time on what, exactly? I didn’t know what to do with them. I went back to resources to learn more. Eventually I uncovered that knowing your values allows you to make life-positive choices before they happen. That might sounds a little nebulous, so let me give you an example.

Knowing Your Values Helps You Make Choices

One of the values I eventually came up with was: I enjoy life as it comes and stay open to new experiences. As part of my experiment compare my daily actions against my values. So, if I wasn’t particularly busy one day and I declined an invitation to run an obstacle course (something I’d normally never think of doing) that would be a direct violation of my values. I’d be giving up a new experience for no reason. 

It’s not something I’d feel bad about, but it would give me cause to rethink either my action or the value I had written down. The vast majority of the time, the value could determine my optimal decision. This wasn’t compared against some objective scale, simply against the kind of person I aspire to be. As I continued the experiment, my values popped up during choices more often, pushing me one way or another.

Daily Review Does Wonders

I can say I’ve revisited my values almost daily for a few years now and seen significant benefits. I stopped certain behaviors which negatively impacted my life and opened myself to new possibilities. Most importantly, I built habits which guide me toward the type of person I want to become.

Knowing and revisiting your values is about training yourself to automatically make optimal decisions for your life (based on what you want). When you constantly see certain ideas your mind recalls them faster, influencing your decisions. Choice by choice, instead of simply ‘knowing’ your values, you become them.

I highly recommend if you don’t have a list of values, or you don’t revisit them regularly, to start immediately. For most people, it will take a while to refine your deepest cares. There’s no perfect way to write out your values, just choose a way that resonates with you. It may take quite a bit of work, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

Ways To List Your Values

If you’re stuck on getting started here are a few different ways of listing your values:

Single words 

For some people, writing a list of words can guide them in the right direction. For example, I know someone who simply has the word ‘love’ as their sole value. They revisit this idea every day, checking to see if they’ve lived their life as lovingly as possible. Most people need a few more words to cover everything they want to, here’s a quick example:

Humor, Knowledge, Stability, Balance, And Growth might be an example. What each individual word represents should be meaningful to you. If you know how each word reflects the life you want to life, you’re on track.

A list of sentences 

Another way to write your values is through a list of sentences. This provides a little more context than single words, but can make it difficult to capture all your values without writing a novel. Here’s an example of sentences (my personal list):

  1. I take actions which keep my body and mind healthy
  2. I value and strengthen all human relationships
  3. I bring power and uplifting energy everywhere I go
  4. I enjoy life as it comes and stay open to new experiences
  5. I have confidence in my ability to adapt and be successful
  6. I value money only to create happiness
  7. I keep myself and the space around me organized and tidy
  8. I work hard to bring value into the world
  9. I push beyond my comfort zone to experience growth
  10. I am grateful, present, and focus on good things.

This list is always open to updates and edits, however I think it’s sufficient to cover everything I want out of life. For now. Over time, I’m sure my priorities will shift, but for now it’s a great framework to compare my life against.

A paragraph

Some individuals also like to write a paragraph or more detailing their values. While, realistically, it may not be too far off a list of sentences, often paragraphs contain a bit more consistency as sentences flow together more smoothly. I’m not going to write out an example here, but if you feel like they can’t be refined into words or sentences, you can write out as much as you’d like.

One note

if you’re going to revisit your values often you may not want them to be too long. Otherwise you’ll have to spend an hour a day going through them. Over time, refine and tighten them so it’s easier to compare across your day. If, however, you get more value out of long paragraphs revisited occasionally, by all means do that!  

Hopefully this article provides more understanding into how useful knowing your values is. It’s a practice which can improve your life and happiness exponentially. As you compare your actions against your core identity, you’ll find ways to adjust and become more of who you want to be, leading to greater happiness. 


Exercise:

  1. Write down your list of values. Commit to revisiting them every day for a week and comparing them to your actions. At the end of the week, evaluate how the practice worked for you.


 

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