The importance of knowing your values in life
Have you ever been striving to achieve something in your life, then finally making it, and after the initial excitement of hitting your goals you feel … empty or disappointed.
Where are the feelings you thought you’d get after hitting your goal? Was it all just a mistake? Or is there something wrong because you cannot enjoy the fruits of your labour?
First of all, nothing is wrong. Sometimes we get ourselves into the wrong situations for the right reasons, and a lot of that has to do with the values we have in life.
Recognizing the values that drive you
Do you know your most important values in life? If all you hear is crickets, or Ms. Universe answers like “Love, Peace and Understanding”, it’s time to take a closer look at your top values in life.
Why? Because we are driven by our values, and all of the decisions we make on a daily basis stem from these values. Our values guide our decisions, and therefore also our destiny.
If we don’t know what out top values are, we cannot clearly strive to fulfil them, which means that we end up in a state of confusion trying to achieve what we think is important, or what external circumstances require of us, and then wonder why nothing really makes us feel that deep and meaningful fulfilment we crave for.
How your life looks like is also based on your values. So especially if you want to change things around in your life, it’s important to recognize what is important to you, what drives you, and also – what would you need to change in order to become the kind of person that you want to become?
Means goals and end goals
Values are dictating the goals we make for ourselves in life, and what we think is worth striving for.
Usually when we think of values, we think about the thigs we believe are most important to us. Things like family, love, abundance, success etc. But often the means –goals get mixed up with the end –goals.
Means –goals are the means with what we get to the end goals.
So let’s say your goal is to have a good career, money and a big house. Or a family and a vegetable garden. These are means -goals, because in themselves they will not bring you what you really are after.
You are linking a certain feeling with these goals, and the feeling is what is really driving you. That can be a feeling of security, happiness, love, freedom etc.
Therefore it’s important to separate these two, and when thinking about your values, and what is important to you in life, taking it a step further.
A simple question of why can go a long way when determining your end goals. If money is important, ask yourself why. Well, it allows you to buy a car and a house and all the travels you want.
Again, why is that important, what will those things give you? A feeling of freedom, security and happiness perhaps? Those are your end goals.
The beauty of letting go of control
The beauty is that when we focus on our end goals, we can loosen up the grip on how these feelings will be achieved.
Maybe we place too much importance on material things to achieve these feelings, because eventually it doesn’t matter how you achieve those feelings of freedom and security, right?
It can also happen that you get all the money and can buy all the things you wanted, but you are still not satisfied.
You are just unhappy in your fancy car and a big house. Will it have been worth it then? Were those really the right goals?
Dr. Wayne Dyer said the following, and I find it quite intriguing:
“If I would give you two magic wands, one with which you could have any material possession you’d ever want, anything at all, and another that would make sure that no matter what happens in your life, you will always have happiness and peace of mind.
Which one would you choose?”
This is a no-brainer, but then again not. We are so programmed to think that these means-goals, these material things are what we need to be after that this choice actually makes us stop for a moment.
Let’s not fall into the trap of pursuing the means –goals with such intensity, that we forget about our end –goals, those things that will actually make us fulfilled in life.
How to work with your values
So how can you work with your values, and bring them more forward in your life?
One good way is making your values visible simply by listing the emotional states that are most important to you in your life.
Ask yourself, what would give me most pleasure in life?
You can make a list of 10 values (or 5 to start with), and if you are running empty on ideas, here is an example of a list of values for inspiration.
Your values also have a hierarchy in them, because although they are all important, some are more important than others.
It is therefore important to think about the order you have your values in, since this can help with making decisions in life. The hierarchy of your values is namely controlling the decisions you make.
If you look at a person’s list of values, you can not only see what they find important, but also what kind of decisions they make in life.
In my top-5 has always been freedom, fun and adventure for example. So the decisions I have made in my life have reflected these values.
Someone who has values like security and stability in the top of their value list would never understand the kind of decisions I have made in life. They think I’m reckless and crazy! This is because they retrieve pleasure from other things than me.
Your values are not static
Your values also change over time.
I noticed this first hand when I re-did my list of values, inspired by the Tony Robbins book I’m reading at the moment, “Awaken the Giant within” (I highly recommend this 500 page masterpiece, although it’s already 30 years old, it’s still as valid as it was in 1991 when it came out).
For instance, adventure is no longer as high on my list as I value other things more now. Some things that have not been on my list, are at the top-3 now.
My current list of values looks like this:
- Peace of mind
- Health & vitality
- Growth & Curiosity
- Freedom & Adventure
- Spirituality & Connection
- Creativity & Passion
As I mentioned earlier, the order of these values matter, and you should spend some time on testing them against each other.
This matters, because when I need to decide something, even something as small as what to do with the extra 2 hours I have if my child is sleeping, I can look at my values and remind myself that Health & Vitality come before creativity for example.
That means that I have decided that health is highly important to me, so if I doubt between going for a run or sitting at my computer creating yet another Pinterest Pin, I will go for that run.
Spirituality and Connection to the source is important to me, and that comes before creativity.
I have realized that I create my best material when I am in the flow connected to the Universe, and that connection also guides me in what I should create next.
(Come to think of it, I think #9 on the list should be pumped up few steps…)
I have also placed Happiness and Peace of mind at the top, because nothing is worth fear, irritation, anxiety or a frazzled mind.
I know that if I am not happy or peaceful, nothing is flowing in my life. Therefore I wanted to put them high upon my value list, because this list is also like a declaration to myself.
This is what is important to me, this is how I choose to live my life. And then I keep myself in check by referring to my list on a regular basis.
I’m sure you see by now see how you can work with your values. Start with answering questions like:
- What is most important to feel in life?
- What needs to happen for you to feel those feelings?
- What needs to NOT happen for you to feel those feelings?
How knowing your values can guide your life changes
If you are looking to change your life around, to start something new, quit your 9-5 or start that Passion business of yours, you have to think about your list of values also from the point of view of “what has to be your values in order for you to achieve my ultimate destiny?”
Then it’s no longer only a question of what is important to you, but what kind of person do you need to become in order to achieve your ultimate goals.
This is one of the reasons I have added a new value into my list, namely Courage. I need to have the courage to continuously work on my dreams, to put myself out there and not to give up no matter what.
This is why Courage is just below Growth & Curiosity, to remind me to push myself when I want to hide.
What does your list of values look like?
Now it’s your turn!
Write down your top-10 (or top-5 / top-15 values) in the order of importance, and write it somewhere where you can look at it easily. I have mine on an index card, and I visit them regularly to keep myself in check and to remind myself what is important.
As Tony Robbins says, it’s these small things, these daily actions and decisions that eventually shape your entire destiny.
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