What are Values?
There are 2 types of values. The values we hold about standards of behaviour i.e. honesty, integrity etc. and the values we hold about what is important to us in life i.e. health, equality etc. To make it clear, in this post we are talking about the latter.
So what are they? Put simply, they are the things we care about, the things that make us who we are, the things that mean the most to us. They act as an internal compass guiding our thoughts, feelings and actions. Living a life that’s opposed to our values creates a feeling of dis-ease within us. Over time this can chip away at our self-worth making us miserable, bitter and twisted. It could also be described as living a lie. Living a life that’s in alignment with our values is, in my opinion, something we should all be aspirating towards. This is essentially what makes us feel like our life has meaning and purpose. It could also be described as being true to yourself.
Regardless of what point you’re at in your life, I believe it’s possible to move towards living a life more aligned with our values. A life with more meaning and purpose. This doesn’t have to involve making huge life-altering changes like quitting your job, leaving your spouse, going to live as a monk on top of a Himalayan mountain. You may well need to make some big changes but we often underestimate the power of small day-to-day actions. If you value friendships, call or message a friend to see how they’re doing instead of scrolling aimlessly through your Facebook feed. If you value health, cut into your TV time by cooking a nice meal from scratch instead of reaching for the microwave meal.
The cumulative effect of these subtle changes to the way we spend our time can have profound effects on our mood, self-esteem and general well-being. When you stop looking at tasks or behaviours simply as things that you should do, and start looking at them as the things that make you who you are, the things that make you special and unique, they become a lot more inviting. In my opinion, this is what ‘being yourself’ really looks like.
How to work out what your values are.
This starts with some very basic self-exploration. What I like to call setting your compass, or programming your GPS (greater positioning system). This is not rocket science. In fact, much like drinking water or saying please and thank you to your other half, it’s so basic and fundamental it’s often completely overlooked.
Identifying your values could not be simpler. Just ask yourself these 3 questions:
What do I care about?
What do I stand for?
What’s important to me?
There’s no right or wrong way to answer these questions, but what worked for me was splurging down on paper everything and anything that came to mind. It looked something like this:
My son; my wife; their health and happiness; providing for them; making memories with them; making a difference; inspiring others; helping those less fortunate; getting out of my comfort zone; not standing still or treading water in life; taking care of my mind, body and spirit; helping others to do the same; being physically able to play with my grandchildren; learning new skills; personal development; giving back; contributing to cause bigger than and beyond myself, etc.
From here I lumped them all into as few categories as possible. In the end, no matter how I broke it down, I was able to fit everything I truly care about into one of the following 4 categories:
- Helping Others
- Learning and Growing
I see these things as my root system. They nourish me, allow me to grow and provide stability. Most of all, they bring me to life!
How does this help me? (How could it help you?)
This gives me a sense of clarity about what means the most to me. A clearer sense of my own identity. This provides a solid foundation for me to make decisions about how I spend my time. It helps me filter out tasks, behaviours, even people from my life, leaving more time for the things that matter most to me.
It helps when I don’t feel so good about myself or my life. Where before I may not have been able put my finger on why I felt a bit low, now it’s surprising how often I’m able to put it down to either veering away from, or not prioritising, what I value most. This allows me to re-set the compass or re-route the GPS. Whatever the metaphor…it helps!
Have a go! You may learn more about yourself than you realise.
Peace out! ✌?