What Exactly Are Values?
Value can fall into several arenas:
- Economic – the material worth of something compared to the monetary price paid.
- Utility/Importance – something held in high regard due to its usefulness or importance to you.
- Aesthetic – this could technically be a part of Utility/Importance, above, but has a more specific relation to art, beauty, harmony and nature such that it elicits a pleasurable experience for the viewer.
- Personal-Core/Ethical – what’s most important to you in life; the guiding principles of your life that dictate action & behavior; it defines who you are.
The primary focus of this article is #4 – Personal Core values. These are principles, standards or convictions we feel are deeply important to our lives. Theoretically, these elements of our core should drive our daily activities and behavior – serving as a compass or beacon for our actions. They are instilled in us culturally throughout our life as we grow and learn.
Rarely, though, does anyone attempt to actually identify their core values. Because of this, and the chaos and lack of focus they experience daily, they find themselves with a nagging feeling something is missing. Let’s change that. Let’s live life with self-confidence and direction. Let’s make better and more confident decisions. Let’s eliminate the time vampires in our lives if they don’t align with our values. Let’s embrace what’s really important and drive up our joy and happiness quotient.
A “Default” Life
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day chaos. Our attention is yanked left and right by the pressing urgency of our work & personal lives, and this is compounded by HUGE distractions thrown in our face every day via daily news drama.
If we choose NOT to take an active role in our life direction, it takes zero effort to allow our lives to be pulled into the mire of mundane chaos, depression and hopelessness that seems to surround us. Days, weeks, months and years pass by; what have we really accomplished? Are we happy? Or are we frustrated and exhausted?
Did we do what’s required of us in our job? Did we do what’s required of us for our family, spouse, kids? Did we do what’s required of us by any social or religious organizations? Did we vent a sigh of relief when we finally were able to sit and idle our minds and body once our daily regimen of responsible duties are complete?
Then……what did we do? Did we tackle the important things in our personal lives that matters to us as individuals? Did we pick up the activities we consider passions and pursue them with satisfied pleasure? Or, were we too pooped-out for our passions?
This describes a “default” life – trying to live by a myriad of other values rather than yours (friend’s, church, education, professional/career, political, etc.). The result is dissatisfaction, restlessness and anxiety . . . knowing something isn’t right . . . your life isn’t in control.
Moving Towards Living a ‘Designed’ Life
By identifying your core values you can live a more directed life, make more intelligent and better decisions, and focus on the things that really matter to you. Having these values in the forefront of your mind helps you clearly identify priorities, eliminate drains on your time and energy, and enjoy a more focused, joyful life. You don’t get yanked about in an aimless direction by anything and everything that comes your way. We should strive to live a life by “design” rather than by “default.”
Don’t get me wrong, the myriad of demands and choices doesn’t stop coming your way. But by knowing your core values you’re prepared to take a stand and make decisions about what you focus upon.
How to Identify Your Core Values
This type of activity can be found in personal improvement books and websites. You can simply Google core values or core values list and find many sites with lists and exercises to accomplish the task.
A couple of the best sites I found are linked below. Each of these requires you to spend some time on introspection and reflection rather than just picking values from a list:
A couple of sites that have nice lists of values:
There are many benefits of living around your core values: satisfaction, contentment, happiness, fulfillment, purpose, meaning, peace of mind, self-confidence, harmony, success. These are the result of living an authentic life without confusion, guilt or shame.
“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.” – Roy E. Disney
Is this activity producing value?
You’ll feel a sense of discovery and satisfaction after developing your list of top values. Review it periodically as a continual reminder of what’s deeply important to you.
Each day, find ways to focus on activities that align with those values. Eliminate as many activities and areas of focus that do not align. (I wouldn’t recommend quitting your source of income, unless you have your dream job already lined up.)
The minutes of your life are finite. Use them the best way possible, rather than squandering them aimlessly. Make your life the best it can be.
Consider some of the following throughout your days and weeks:
- Are the hours of my life creating value for me?
- Does the decision I’m about to make align with my values?
- Is the activity I’m about to partake in going to produce value in my life? Does it support my core values?
- Is the purchase I’m about to make going to provide value to my life? Does it support my core values?
I went through an exercise five to ten years ago to identify my values. They are (in no particular order):
- Discovery/Learning/Knowledge, Truth/Accuracy, Beauty/Aesthetics, Growth/Self-Actualization, Freedom/Self-Reliance/Individualism, Integrity, Justice, Results, Creating/Building
Yes, this is more than the 5 or 10 the articles suggest. However, I resonate with all of them and enjoy the reminder of their importance to my life. Ultimately these values are what drove my selection of the Categories and Sub-categories used on this blog.
I use these to identify my life’s goals and document the important focal activities to pursue in something called a Strategy On A Page (SOAP). This SOAP includes a list of those values plus areas of aligning focus for my life’s interests and pursuits. I reference this through the year to ensure alignment to what’s most important.
The whole process of identifying and embracing my values has created more happiness and contentment in my life – a goal we should all embrace!
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Featured image coourtesy of wigflip.com)