How To Uncover Your Values (And Why You’d Want To)
Stuck in a job you hate? Can’t understand why you HATE running but take a Zumba class and you could Zumba for three hours straight? Do you find making decisions in some areas of your life is like pulling teeth?
If you answered Yes! to any of those questions, then you’ll be happy to discover the solution is as simple as spending some time and attention on figuring out what your values are.
When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier – Roy Disney
So what are values? This might all sound a little esoteric…send the part of your brain that wants to make rational sense of everything off for a nap, and go with me on this one.
- Values aren’t morals and they aren’t ethics.
- Values are not chosen. They are intrinsic to you and are as distinct as your thumbprints. They represent who you already are as a person.
Values are the qualities of a life lived fully from the inside out. When you’re living life in alignment with your values things feels bright, alive, juicy and vibrant. When you’re living life out of alignment with your values, you’ll probably notice feeling flat, drained, annoyed or weak.
Choosing to live a life that honors your values (i.e. one that is fulfilling to you) takes courage. We live in a world that tells us to stay in very small boxes or to live a life that’s about someone else’s values…your parent’s values, what society values etc… and so in this post I’m inviting you to step into the possibility that what you dream of as a fulfilling life is in fact revealing of your values.
Honoring our values is inherently fulfilling even if it’s hard. It’s about doing away with the “shoulds” and the “oughts”. It’s about living the second-rate version of your own life rather than a first-rate version of someone else’s.
Human beings are pretty damn resilient and we can tolerate a great deal of discomfort, like an unsatisfying job or a mediocre relationship, for example and we can still keep going, but there is a very high price to pay: a life that you tolerate rather than one that’s got a huge sense of fulfillment.
When we live according to our unique values we feel a sense of internal rightness, like things are just clicking.
Values are intangible, they are not something we do (ie: I value the time I spend reading, but reading isn’t a value) or have (ie: I value having some cash-o-la to spend but money isn’t a value either). Both of these are activities and things that honor a larger value…learning or security, for example.
If you’re totally stumped, below is a BIG list of values words to choose from…but if you don’t need it, ignore it because sometimes looking at it can you make us feel overwhelmed and like everything is our core values. Don’t go shopping for values, as in “Oh, that’d be a nice value to have”.
All for one & one for all
Calm, quietude, peace
Concern for others
Content over form
Delight of being, joy
Inner peace, calm, quietude
Maximum utilization (of time, resources)
Quality of work
Rule of Law
Service (to others, society)
Spirit in life
Now that you have your top values identified, it’s time to deepen your understanding of what they mean to you.
1. Start by creating a value chain for each word that you chose. Let your mind roam free, associating words naturally and answering the question, “What’s important to me about that?” over and over again. You might find doing that annoying and then boring but that’s the point…once you get past the obvious you’ll start uncovering the really juicy stuff!
Personal Growth / reading / learning / feeling inspired / inspiring others / sharing / recommending resources to friends / meeting interesting people / attending classes / challenging myself / evolving / learning new ways to improve and appreciate my life.
2. When you’re done with the word association part, circle or bold the word in that entire string that best represents your value. This might not be the first word you wrote down; choose the word that will help you capture the entire snapshot of words that you chose.
It’s also totally fine if it’s a word that only really has meaning to you.
I don’t care if that’s spicy, velvet, glitter or mango…so long as the word you choose really resonates with you, go for it!
3. For each word on your list, write a short paragraph describing what that value means to you, why you chose it, and what it means to fully honor it.
So one of my values is Growth and Learning and here’s what it means to me:
Being open to feedback, even when it’s hard to hear. Investing in myself through reading, taking courses and being coached. Having mentors. Staying curious. Reframing failures as opportunities to learn. Allowing for there to be cycles to my growth – learning, assimilating, synthesizing.
It’s time for one last exercise – rate each of your values on a scale from 1-10.
For values that you rated yourself 7 or higher, woop! High five!
For values that you rated 6 or lower, what actions could you take to move the needle closer to a 10? Take a class? Get an accountability partner to check in with?
As Tony Robbins says, never leave the scene of learning without taking action…so take some action right now!
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