How To Find Your Values
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” — Henry David Thoreau
It’s hard to live your values if you don’t know what they are.
This post will help you find your values.
My dictionary defines a value as "something (as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable."
That sounds about right.
Finding your values and clarifying them is one of the first steps towards true self-awareness.
Do You Know Your Top 5 Values?
You would think you know yourself after all these years, but a lot of things get in the way. For example, maybe you never took the time to write down your top five values.
Or maybe, you got caught up in what you think your values "should" be or what other people decided you should value.
Either way, now is a great time to figure out your values.
if you know your values, then you know what you want, you know who you are, you know where you stand. You know your values when you have a list of five values you can rattle off.
List of Values
To find your values, start with a list. This is one of my favorite lists of values from one of my training sessions, but I haven’t finished comparing. It’s good enough for now:
If that list doesn’t work for you, there’s plenty of lists on the Web. Some are overwhelming and some have lists of values that are too fine-grained.
The key is to have a list of big values that really shape your life decisions as well as your day to day. Think macro vs. micro.
Find Your Top Values
To find your top values, you can chunk down the list. Make multiple passes:
- Find your top 10.
- Find your top 5.
- Find your top 3.
- Find your top value.
Remember that it’s not about finding what you value.
Chances are, you value a lot of the items on the list.
It’s about find what you value most.
You need to know your top most values so when you have to prioritize or make trade-offs, you have some gauges.
A simple way to think of it is that value are your gauges in life. For example, my top five gauges are: Adventure, Family Happiness, Health, Integrity, Personal Development. I think. It’s tough since freedom is important to me too, as is loyalty. So is helpfulness. I like to help. Some values I can’t trade-off.
Luckily, I don’t need to, except in certain scenarios and decisions. (Scenario-based values is something I also need to explore.)
Be Willing to Be Surprised
I was surprised the first time I explored my values. I didn’t realize how important adventure is to me. It was like my life flashed before my eyes:
"Go west young man," "lead an epic adventure," "it’s a SWAT mission," cross-country road-trips, my Jeep, my motorcycle, a dream to go to Australia … etc.
I remember that when I first joined Microsoft, the very first though in my mind was, "Go West young man." If for no other reason, it would be an adventure.
I realized that since I’ve been at Microsoft, I bake adventure into my daily life. When I lead a project, I try to build the dream team to go on an epic adventure to take on some big problem. I would inspire the team by talking in terms of SWAT missions and taking on big challenges.
A lot of my metaphors are about adventure.
That’s the beauty of knowing your values. You can work more of your values into your day to day, even if it’s as simple as using more metaphors. You can live you values in lots of ways, large and small.
Test Your Values
Just having your list of values from the top of your mind, might not be enough. To get more clarity, you can test your values:
- Is it truly YOUR value? (i.e. is it internally motivated or is it external … a "should")
- Is it a means or an end? If one value is simply to accomplish another, then look to the value you want to accomplish. If you want economic security because you think it leads to freedom, then freedom is the one you value most. This is important because there’s multiple ways to accomplish a goal and flexibility is key. Know what you want, but be flexible in your approach.
- Do your actions show your values? Actions speak louder than words.
- When were you happiest or most excited? What was your proudest moment? These highlights are a potential showcase of your values.
- What do you regret the most? Again, this is a way to figure out what’s most important to you.
It’s an Ongoing Exercise
Finding and living your values is an ongoing exercise. Life-changing events can shift our values. (think Scrooge.) Finding ways to live your values can help you find fulfillment as well as improve your energy and ignite your passions.
Feel free to ask questions, share your thoughts and share your values below.
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