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Your values help you to determine your priorities, and in turn, your goals. They help you to create a context for your life and your work. They can be used as a measuring stick to assess whether or not you are on track to accomplishing your goals.

Everybody has a value system, whether they are aware of it or not. Those who consistently act on their values are generally happy. Those who consistently go against their values feel a sense of dissonance in their lives.

Therefore, it serves to reason that knowing your values should be a high priority.

Why Your Values Are Important

Defining Your Values

Typically, values can be summed up in a single word. Some words will resonate with you, while others will not. You may find it valuable to scan a list of words (like the one below) and pick out the ones that make the most sense to you.

While the following list is not a comprehensive one (there are many other words you could use to define your values), take a moment to look it over and pick out a few words that you feel drawn to.

Achievement
Balance
Boldness
Commitment
Community
Contribution
Creativity
Dependability
Discipline
Enthusiasm
Equality
Excellence
Faith
Family
Focus
Freedom
Health
Honesty
Independence
Joy
Leadership
Legacy
Originality
Positivity
Service
Simplicity
Unity
Vision

Here are some helpful questions to guide you in your selection process:

  • When do you feel the happiest? When do you feel good? What were you doing? Who were you with?
  • What makes you proud?  Why were you proud? What were you doing? Who were you with?
  • When do you feel fulfilled? What makes you feel a sense of satisfaction? What were you doing? Who were you with?

Prioritize Your Values

As you were going through the list of value words, you may have identified with many of them. If so, you may discover that some of the words feel more in-line with who you are than others. Take a moment to whittle down your list and consider which are primary and which might be secondary to you.

Then, create a new list of ten to twenty values that reflect who you are and who you want to become. This list will serve you well; especially in times of decision making.

How Your Values Will Help You

Values are often defined by a single word. While they always work on a macro level, they also work on a micro level as well. In other words, they can help you to make relevant decisions in the immediate.

For example, if you are wondering whether or not you want to follow through on a job offer, your values will help you to make a sensible decision. If it’s a job that requires you to work long hours, but you value your family, you may choose not to pursue it.

How Values Change Over Time

Though values are meant to be stable and solid, that does not mean that they can’t change over time. As your life circumstances change, you may consider adopting a new value system.

The most important question to consider is: what does success look like to you?

This question will help you to reassess and reprioritize your values when necessary.