How to define your values

Recently we shared the difference between beliefs and values. Now it’s time to dig deeper into values and explore how you can gain clarity on what yours are.

It’s a gift that keeps on giving. By getting clear on your values you’ll be taking a critical step towards becoming the person you want to be.

What I am about to share with you is a process I’ve developed over years of coaching people from all walks of life. Each and every time I’ve worked with someone to clarify their values, they leave feeling more inspired by and connected to the world around them.

 

What life is like before you define your values.

Before you define your values, it can feel like you’re trying to figure out who you want to be, while looking out into the world with dirty glasses.

The process of clarifying values is like taking the glasses off, cleaning them, looking at the world again and saying “Ohhh…that makes so much more sense now”.

So, let’s get clear on your values. The point of this exercise is to be able to leave feeling clear about what your top 3-5 values are. If you know that, when the hard decisions come, when the pressure is applied, you’ll know what you should let guide you. Your values.

 

What you should know before you define your values.

So, how can you possibly work out your top 3-5 values? You’ll need to spend some time thinking and making some decisions. But before we get into that, here’s a couple of important frames about values.

  1. Values are seasonal. 

    What you value as a teenager or young adult, will be different to what you value as a 40-something with a couple of kids and a mortgage. It’s just logical, right? Allow that to be a filter as you explore your values. Ask, “Is this of value to me now?” Not, “Was it of value to me when I was a kid?”, or “Will it be of value to me when I am older?”. Focus on asking the question, “Is this of value to me right now?” Our values can change so it’s important to do this exercise regularly. I do this every year or whenever something big changes in my life.

  2. Your personal values are yours alone.

    Nobody else gets to tell you what you should value and it’s up to you alone to determine what your values are. If you ask yourself, “Is this of value to me now?”, and the thought that pops into your head is, “Well my boss/spouse/kids/mother-in-law/priest believes I should value it”, then I guarantee you that’s a road that leads to no-where good. What we know about values is they must be intrinsic for them to be a true value. You have to do the work of coming to the place where you and you alone, can see the value of that value. No-one, regardless of how influential they are in your life, can determine your values for you.

  3. You can only honour a small handful of values at any one time. 

    There’s a great saying, “If you value everything, you value nothing”. You simply cannot do justice to more than a handful of values at any one time. I limit my values to three as a focus. That might just be because I get confused easily. Or it could be that I am human. To get clear on your values, stick to a small number as this is the most helpful way to hone in on who you are. Especially as you enter a new year.

 

Right, let’s get into it then.

 

How to define your personal values.

Step #1: Review a list of common values.

 

Here’s one we prepared earlier:

Authenticity

Accountability

Achievement

Adventure

Authority

Autonomy

Balance

Beauty

Being Liked

Being Yourself

Compassion

Challenge

Citizenship

Congruence

Competency

Collaboration

Creativity

Compassion

Curiosity

Determination

Discovery

Empathy

Endurance

Faith

Family

Freedom

Friendship

Financial Security

Fun

Growth

Happiness

Health

Honesty

Humour

Influence

Justice

Growth

Kindness

Knowledge

Leadership

Learning

Love

Loyalty

Meaningful Work

Openness

Optimism

Peace

Pleasure

Poise

Recognition

Religion

Reputation

Respect

Responsibility

Simplicity

Success

Social Justice

Trust

Wisdom

Step #2: Get rid of what isn’t yours.

For your first round of reflection, trust your gut and start to strike off what you don’t value. So read the list and ask yourself: “Is this of value to me right now, yes or no?”. Then, trust your gut reaction. Don’t over analyse, just get it done.

Step #3: Refine.

With the remaining values, consider the ones most important to you right now and keep culling until you have your top 3-5.

Step #4: Reflect. 

With this newfound clarity, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How are these values expressed in each area of your life? Home, Work, Self-Care, Finances, Friends, Family etc.
  • Are you happy with the level of priority you are giving your top values at the moment?
  • Is there any value you would like to focus on specifically over the coming 90 days?
  • How do your values inform a great purpose for you?

 

Did you find this exercise useful? If you did be sure to pass on the power of values to someone in your life. Share this on LinkedIn or email it to a friend. Defining your values is the first step to living a life you’re proud of.