Life values are the foundation on which we each build our lives.
You can think of them as the standards you use to decide how you’re going to lead your life. They’re at the very core of your personality; they guide your dreams and ambitions, your decisions, the actions you take and the way you behave. They help you focus on the things that are important to you and influence the choices you make.
The more committed you are to living your life consistent with your values, the better you feel about yourself, and the more confident you become. You do what you know to be right and you focus on what’s important to you, with the result that you find greater happiness and peace of mind.
Conversely, if you behave in a way that goes against your values, you create conflict deep down inside leading to stress and much unhappiness. You feel bad about yourself, because you’re not behaving consistently with the things you care about. And you feel dissatisfied, because you’re not accomplishing your dreams and ambitions.
So, the more you can align your outer life with your inner values and be true to yourself, the more you’ll experience a sense of fulfilment and peace of mind.
How to Identify Your Life Values
People’s core values vary enormously; what creates great passion in one person can leave another completely cold.
It’s therefore very important to be absolutely honest with yourself when unearthing your core values. Don’t be tempted to include a value simply because you think it’s the right thing to do, or because someone else expects it of you. If you want to find peace of mind and a sense of fulfilment, you must look inside and discover the very essence of your being.
Start by making a list of all the things that are important to you, no matter how crazy they may seem.
To help tease out what really matters to you, ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s important to me in my life?
- What makes me feel happy?
- What makes me feel good about myself?
- What gives me a sense of pride and satisfaction?
- What do I like in other people?
You may come up with the same answers as you go through these questions, which is fine; they’re designed to unearth your most precious values by looking at your life from different angles.
Then ask: why are these things important to me?
This is where you really start to dig deep.
If you identified family as being important, is it because you value love or a sense of belonging or the desire to nurture?
If you said you want to set-up your own business, is it because you want financial security or you value freedom or you want to provide the best customer service in your field?
Make a note of all your reasons to help refine your core values.
And finally, you need to rank your values in order of importance, which can take a bit of soul searching. But don’t give up! This exercise can literally transform your life.
Often, it’s not until a crunch situation crops up that we’re forced to recognize which are our most important values, e.g. family or work, money or happiness? So, rather than wait until life takes you to the brink, explore your priorities in advance; it can save a lot of agonizing.
One of the best ways of ranking your values is to look down the list and pick out the one that you feel is the most important. Then, just to be sure, ask yourself: is this value more (or less) important than each of the other values on my list?
Then take (what you think is) the second most important value and ask the same question.
Go through this process for all the values on your list. It may sound like a tedious process, but at the end of it all, you’ll be able to clearly identify your top 5-10 values.
Many people – including me – have had a great aaha moment, as we realized that certain values are actually more (or less) important than we’d originally appreciated.
And when you recognize this, there’s the opportunity to re-align your outer world with what really matters to you, enhancing your happiness and peace of mind.
The Path to Greater Happiness and Fulfilment
Once you’ve got clarity about what really matters to you in life, you can start to take action that’s in keeping with your most important values.
If any of your daily activities make you feel ashamed, embarrassed, resentful or worn down, look for ways in which you can either eliminate these activities from your life, or alternatively change your behavior, so your actions don’t contravene what you value in life.
If you’re asked by your boss or a friend to do something that’s contrary to one of your values, ask yourself if you’re prepared to say you’re not going to do it? If not, is there anything you can do in the future that will prevent you from being faced with the same dilemma again?
Knowing your core values helps to keep you on track and stay true to who you are. And when your outer life becomes congruent with your inner life, you feel good about yourself, and experience greater happiness and peace of mind.