What Are Your Values?

The article is posted on the Mind Tools

Follow the link to read it there: 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 personal 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!

Defining Your Values

When you define your personal 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.

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 personal 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.