We all have values—a set of guiding principles by which we live our lives.
But while most of us would acknowledge the importance of having values in our life, few of us have ever taken the time to identify what, exactly, our values are! We simply live our lives—responding to situations that arise—without ever stepping back and asking ourselves why we feel the way we do, where that strong reaction came from, or why we happen to hold such firm opinions about things!
Instead of going through life in reactive mode, simply responding the best that you can to each situation that arises, consider switching to a proactive mindset. Taking the time to discover for yourself what your values are can help to provide tremendous insight into your thoughts and guiding principles—showing you exactly why you believe and behave like you do. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to consciously design your intentions and responses, and therefore able to become the type of person that you’d like to be.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few ways that you can go about identifying your core values—and gain a clear sense of direction to live your life as intentionally as possible. Are you ready?
Start With A Fresh Mind
We may not realize it, but we all have a set of core values that we subscribe to, even if unintentionally. Our values have been passed down from generation to generation, or picked up from our culture or society. These values are things that we hold to be the absolute truth—and often, we would be prepared to defend them, should the situation arise. But while it’s easy to live our lives upholding vague principles just because we feel they’re right, it’s important to begin your quest of discovering your core values with a fresh mind. This means identifying why, exactly, you subscribe to certain values and recognizing their importance in your life.
Identify Your Personal Values
Next, it’s time to start pinpointing your values. While coming up with a list of personal values may seem like a daunting process, it’s actually quite easy. Just ask yourself which things in your life elicit the strongest emotional response from you: love, anger, jealousy, joy. These things will help to shine some light onto the beliefs that you subscribe to.
To help you further, you can browse a premade list. There are lists, such as this one, that will give you a range of values that you can choose from. Choose the ones which speak loudest to you—ones that make you feel something, or things that you can’t picture your life without. When looking at this list, you may also start to realize that there are values that you may have never considered making a central part of your life. Remember: you have the power to create a life that’s defined by your core values, so choose ones that are consistent with what you truly believe as well as ones that you would like to subscribe to.
You may also find it helpful to break down your life into categories: meaningful experiences and important moments. Discovering what really makes you tick, what makes you the happiest, and what upsets you the most can help you determine which values are important in your life. Condense these experiences into sentences, and then finally, into words.
Put Them To The Test
Once you have your list of core values, set it aside for a day or two and then come back to revisit it. Have an honest look to see which values should remain and which ones may need to come off. Ask yourself if values define you. Are they personal to you or do they feel like they belong to someone else—like an authority figure or society in general? Remember, nothing is final! Feel free to make any adjustments or changes as necessary.
Live It Out
Now, it’s time to start living your life in a way that’s consistent with these values! Begin by making a list of ways that you can practically incorporate your values into your life. For example, if learning or growth is important to you, commit to reading two new books a month. If creativity is on your list, resolve to make time in your schedule for creative writing, art, or other pursuits. Create an actionable list of plans that you can look back on and check in on regularly. In your Day Designer planner, you’ll be able to incorporate these into your daily schedule and to-do list. Start living intentionally—in line with your core values—and your life will begin to take shape around your new guiding principles, allowing you to be the type of person that you’d like to be.
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As Roy Disney once said, “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” Your values, your guiding principles, are what will influence your decisions, shape your life, and ultimately define you. Make sure you’re living a life that’s in line with what you truly believe—one that’s consistent with who you want to be. It starts by identifying your core values!