The Importance of Personal Values – Personal values are characteristics and behaviours that motivate us and guide our decisions.
For example, if you value authenticity, you believe in revealing the real you whenever possible. You don’t pretend to be something you are not and when that doesn’t happen, you probably feel disappointed in yourself.
Or maybe you value honesty and believe in being honest wherever possible. You think it’s important to say what you really think, and when you don’t, again you feel disappointed in yourself.
These are just a couple of examples. Everyone has their own personal values, which can be very different. There are no rights or wrongs here.
Values are important
You are much more likely to feel happier and more fulfilled if you’re living your life according to your personal values, and feel not so good if you are not.
A good way to decide what your personal values are is knowing what makes you feel good. Remember we are talking about characteristics or ways of behaving. So a good way of identifying your personal values is being aware of what negative emotions don’t make you feel good, or when you have felt disappointed in yourself. What behaviour led to that?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What’s important to you in life?
- What are you most proud of?
- When are you at your happiest?
- Which types of behaviour or events makes you angry?
- What inspires you and why?
- What do you want to change about yourself or the world and why?
In a notebook or on some blanks sheets of paper, brainstorm your answers to these questions, and using the answers, decide on what your personal values will be.
I think it’s important to note that personal values are not set in stone and can be changed or added to as we experience life and events.
Once you have your list, it’s important to put them in order of priority because doing so can help you to get closer to defining what’s important to you. It may also be necessary to par down your values. I would suggest a manageable number is between five and seven values.
What if you have a large list?
One way to remove some off the list is to list them in order or priority and choose say the top seven. If that is not working for you, then assign each value a number, from say 1-10, and then choose the top seven with the highest number.
Ideally, we live accordingly to all our values, but time is limited and so prioritising ensures that we spend time on the most important things and that will have the biggest results in our life.
I am happy to share my values, courage, fun, freedom, justice and authenticity.
The Next Step
Once you have your values, the next steps is to look at the bigger picture. Are you living according to your values? Does your paid/voluntary work reflect your values? What about your activities outside work? Are you spending your time on things that matter to you?
Don’t worry or beat yourself up if you’re not. But if you want to, then for each of your values, make a list of things you could do to put those values into practice.
As an example, one of my values is authenticity, and whilst I have received lots of training and qualifications for the work that I do, there is more in-depth therapeutic training that would allow me to help many more people and also enhance my practice. So, last year I decided to go back to college and enrolled on a masters.
Avoid being constrained by practical considerations at this stage and just write down the possibilities. Things you could do to live by your values.
You will then have a list of possible actions for each value. So the next step would be to make those actions into goals for the coming, week, month or year or maybe longer.
Although living your values is much more than the big long-term goals. It’s also about the small everyday decisions. Do you react to situations that are aligned with your values?
Of course it’s not always easy to do that. A force of habit or immediate gratification can be very powerful. So much so that we can forget about our good intentions and act in way which doesn’t mirror our values.
Allow yourself to make a habit of
……reading your values on a daily basis until they are ingrained in your head. Keep a list of your values on your phone as a reminder. Whenever you veer off course, ask yourself what you could have done differently? How about visualising your day and planning how you will bring your values into it.
Like all new things, it boils down to practice. All I know is that living by your values makes you feel so much calmer and happier.
Until next time
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