Realising Your Values

Do you know what your values are? Knowing and understanding your values is a way to gain clarity on who you are and who you want to be. It's so important to be clear about what is important to you in life, so this article will be about how to list, prioritise, and refine your values, and why it's important.

Why are values important?

We make many decisions every day, and often we will regret making some of those decisions. If you know your values and what's important to you, you achieve greater self-awareness, and you can make decisions in a more informed manner. Your time is limited; it's best to get the most out of it by living the life you want to live — you need to understand what that looks like first. Your values are a huge indicator of your priorities and what you decide to spend your time on. They help guide you through life and help you get back on track when you have a bad day, by reflecting on your values you can make decisions the way the person that you want to be would. They put you more in line with your goals and push you towards them.

One key idea about knowing your values is that it gives you direction in life. Not knowing your direction in life can easily lead to ending up where you don't want to be. If you're almost a millionaire or struggling to pay the rent, knowing your direction helps put you on track to getting where you want to be in life, regardless of where you're starting from.

Your set of values should align with the person you want to be over the next few months. If you're looking to make significant changes in your life, then your values should reflect the person who handles the changes well and then goes on to thrive. If you don't have any big plans in sight, then your values should reflect how you can live your current life to its fullest extent and continue growing as a person. Once you've had a set of values for 3–6 months, you may want to review your values and change the list to reflect where you want to move towards from your new position.

How to define your values

The idea here is to think about yourself and who you want to be. The goal in this process of defining your values is to create a list of 8–15 values, where each 'value' is a word or two that best describes that value, and then order them in their relative importance to you. The top few values should be the things you want to focus on improving in as a person currently. For example, if you have a lack of confidence that you feel is holding you back, then confidence may be one of your top values. If you are overweight and want to get in shape, then health might be an important value for you — where it is on the list is dependent on how much it means to you relative to your other values.

For example, this is my current list of values that I made about three weeks ago:
  1. Growth
  2. Excellence
  3. Honesty
  4. Achievement
  5. Gratitude
  6. Benevolence
  7. Mindfulness
  8. Positivity
  9. Vitality
  10. Stature
  11. Generosity
  12. Individuality
  13. Integrity
Growth is my number one value because I want to strive to be a better person in all areas of my life. If I believe that doing something will make me grow as a person, then I'm quite inclined to do it.

Excellence is my second most important value. I want to strive for greatness in everything I do. I don't like giving 50% effort to things, so when I try and do something I try and do it with excellence. I don't do everything excellently, but it's something to strive for.

Honesty is my third most important value. It's hard to describe why this is so important to me in a few sentences, so I'll probably write an article on truth sometime in the future. If you ask me a question, I'll answer it honestly or not at all. Being dishonest separates your actions from your words and gives others a false understanding of you. I believe being honest is one of the highest goods of all. If you want to read more about why you should be honest, consider reading Rule 8 of the book '12 Rules for Life' by Jordan Peterson (I know his political takes are a bit weird, but when he is not talking about politics he can be quite good).

I could explain what all of my values mean to me, but I hope you get the picture by now. Do note that my interpretation of each word in my list of values may not match the dictionary definition.

As another example, the list of values I created around seven months before was: Achievement, Efficiency, Enjoyment, Honesty, and Positivity. This list was quite short as the instructions I read on the process at the time said to choose 5, but I don't think that I can encapsulate the person who I am and who I want to be in only five values.

Here's another example list of values that I have made up:
  1. Love
  2. Health
  3. Wealth
  4. Comfort
  5. Fun
  6. Success
  7. Learning
  8. Peace
  9. Intimacy
You can probably tell that a person with this set of values is probably a less career-oriented person, and much more focused on settling down and enjoying life as it is.

Here’s an list of around 300 possible values you can use — start by picking out the values that you think are important to you and will help you reach your goals. Then either removing the ones you don't feel as strongly about until you get a list of around 8–15 values. Similar words should be grouped as a single value. Then you can choose which word you like the most, or choose two or three words to represent that value. I haven't done that with my list of values because I like them to be concise, but it's up to you. Don't be afraid of what you want to put as your values. If you desire power and wealth, then you should put them in your list of values — I haven't put them in mine because they're not that important to me.

Once you have a list of values, you should try and order them depending on how significant each value is to you. This process will take time. You can spend 10 minutes on this process or many hours. After a few days, you may decide to refine your values and change the ordering, or even add or remove a few.

Do note that none of these rules are hard rules. You can make your list of values whatever you want them to be. If you want to write a sentence for each value instead of a one or two words then that's fine, it's up to you.

Living by your values

The most important thing you can do with this new list of values is to act in accordance with them. Believing that you are a person who acts following your values helps you realise your worth and will help you achieve and enjoy the things you want to. Every time you are faced with a decision, reflect on your values. If the decision must be made very quickly then make the decision and reflect on whether it was in line with your values afterwards, and if it wasn't then you should take note and you can make better decisions in the future. If you believe that a decision you made was the right decision but didn't align with your values, then you're probably wrong about the decision or your values.

If you haven't yet, try and spend some time when you're free and follow the process I've described in defining your list of values. I hope it lets you make more conscious decisions in your life and puts you on the right path to improvement.