Have you ever felt like the ball in a pinball machine? Bumping from one peg to another with no clear direction.
Or a stick floating down a stream? Knocking into rocks or the bank as you’re taken along with the current.
If you feel anxious with no clear sense of direction, it could be that you need to define your life values.
What are Life Values?
Life values, also known as personal or core values, are the fundamental core beliefs that guide your life.
They have an impact on your behaviour, actions, thoughts and feelings.
They are the bedrock of your life and can help guide you to make better decisions, which are right for you and your priorities. Without strong life values, we can be taken along in any direction, only realising in hindsight that it wasn’t the right path for us. This can still happen if we have values, but it’s much less likely, as we have self-constructed more of a path to guide us throughout our life.
For example, if you find it hard to make decisions, small or large, your values can help you to decide. If someone asks if you want to do something, but it goes against your life values, you’ll know to decline the offer.
My Life Values – How to find out
Some people will have a clear idea of their life values, without having to think about it. But for many of us, putting aside the time to develop these can be a hugely rewarding and important task. It doesn’t take long (this will differ from person to person) – in 15 – 20 minutes or less, you should be able to decide on at least a few values, if not all.
Here’s how to do it…
1. Find a place that relaxes you. This might be indoors or outdoors. It could involve doing something active like going for a walk or run, or it could be sitting still to quieten the mind. You may want to keep your eyes open or close them for the exercise. Find what works for you.
2. Make sure you have a pen and paper, laptop or phone. If you do use a device, I’d recommend turning off your wifi or data for a few minutes to ensure you don’t get distracted by notifications or social media!
3. Ask yourself “What’s truly important to me in my life?”. Think about the times when you’ve felt happiest and/ or most fulfilled. If you can’t think of anything, just relax and keep thinking.
4. Write down whatever comes up. Don’t worry if it sounds silly, just write it all down for now. No one else is going to see this (unless you show them!).
5. Have a look at how many values you have. If you have more than five, get rid of some. Maybe you can combine a couple into one. Try to decide on your five most important values.
6. Prioritise your values by making a list. Put your most important value as number 1, then continue until all 5 are ordered. When you’ve done this, you have your 5 core values!
If you are struggling to come up with any, here are some examples:
• Adventure • Balance • Confidence • Control • Creativity • Discipline • Education • Faith • Family • Financial Security • Friends • Freedom • Fulfilment • Forgiveness • Fun • Growth • Happiness • Health • Hope • Honesty • Humour • Independence
• Integrity • Kindness • Knowledge • Marriage • Peace of mind • Power • Progress • Reason • Security • Self-reliance • Service • Spirituality • Strength • Success • Truth • Wisdom
How Personal Values Contribute to Success
When we have a clear idea of our life values, we can then begin using them in our lives. If you’re on the fence about whether to do something, ask yourself if it fits in with your core values. If you have a conflict between two values, which value is more important on your list?
By sticking to the values that are most important to us, we will have more of a clear sense of direction and purpose. We can start taking steps to fulfilling those values. For example, if one of your values is volunteering, then you can start seeking out opportunities that work for you.
Our values will also help when life gets difficult, helping to prevent us from becoming overwhelmed and knocked off course like that ball in the pinball machine or that stick floating down the stream!
Can Personal Values Change Over Time?
Personal values can change over time. As our life changes, so can our values.
For example, maybe our friends are there for us in a time of need and we realise that ‘Friendship’ is now one of our core values. That could be added to our list.
It’s worth revisiting your values every now and again just to see if they still feel correct. It might be something that you do when setting your goals around New Year, ever year. It’ll normally just take a few minutes to check over.
Can we have more than five core values?
You can have as many core values as you like! But I like to try to stick to five, as this means that they truly feel like core values and don’t become a long list instead. Keeping with five values means they’ll really feel important to you. If you do decide to add one or two, you may decide to take the same amount off, or you may decide to add them on and have seven – it’s up to you!
So, to sum up, I think it’s really worth spending some time thinking about your life values. You’ll find them useful as you journey through life, and they’ll keep you on track when you may be unsure of what to do next.
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