Increasing your self-awareness of your values.
Your values are the things that are important to you. They often take on short labels such as: family, friendships, education, personal or professional development.
There are many reasons why knowing your values can be important. Firstly, by explicitly having stated your values you can assess whether you are spending time and making decisions in accordance with what you find important.
The decisions your values inform will vary in size and complexity. For example, what to do with free time, whether you should prioritise your family over your friends or vice versa, or even whether to work for a company as their values may or may not align with yours. Therefore it can also be very helpful to rank your most important values so that you have a general idea of what to do if you are faced a dilemma of choosing between two things that are important to you. The context will always be important, but your values can provide you guidance and a starting point.
One important thing to remember is that values will change naturally over time, and therefore even if we decided on aspects of our lives according to our values five years ago, it might not be the right thing for us now. Therefore it is important to actively reflect and challenge our values and habits.
It can be useful to track how you spend your time and see if it matches your values, for example if friends are important for you, do you show that in your actions?
How to identify personal values
There are many different approaches you can use to identify your personal values. Whichever you choose it can be helpful to set aside a period of undisturbed time when you are fully focused on the task. Two example approaches are provided below.
Ask yourself questions
One of the easiest ways to identify values is to ask yourself questions like:
- What is important to me?
- What would a perfect day look like? What values are represented in this choice?
- What do I spend my free time on?
- What do I enjoy doing?
- What would I do if there were no limitations?
It can then be helpful to review your answers, consider what values these may represent, and capture all the values on a list.
Once you have a list it can be beneficial to rank your top 5 or top 10 and save it for reference. If you don’t find it easy to rank your values, you can start by trying to identify those at the top of your list by asking yourself questions like ‘If I could only have one of these two things in my life, which would I choose?’
Use a word list and narrow it down.
This particular approach is adapted from TapRooT’s core value identification activity, with the goal of finding your five core values.
Step 1: From the following list choose and write down values that resonate and are important to you. There is no need to overthink it, but try to be selective so you don’t end up with all of the values on the list. You will likely find that most of the values have some importance to you, so make sure you ask yourself ‘Why this one?’ to choose only essential values. If you have a value that is important to you but does not appear on the list, write that one down too.
Being the best
Making a difference
Step 2: Group the values into at most five categories/groupings in a way that make sense to you. For example, if you selected the values flexibility and open-mindedness, these might be grouped together as they both have something to do with change. However, it is only important that the groupings make sense for you.
Step 3: Now that you have five groupings, choose one value from each group that functions as an overall label for the group (or make up a label if one value does not stand out). For instance, if you have grouped ‘balance’, ‘health’, ‘personal development’, ‘wellbeing’ and ‘spirituality’ – the label may end up being ‘wellbeing’.
Now you have five core values (or value groups) with a series of important values embedded within these.
Step 4: You can stop the exercise there, or you can choose to add a verb to each of the core values to make it actionable. For instance, to make ‘wellbeing’ from the above example an actionable value statement, you might make it the actionable value ‘Promote wellbeing’.
Step 5: Now challenge yourself to order the core values from most important to least important. Write the prioritised list.
Now you have a list that you can return to for reference when making future decisions.
One challenge with this approach is that it might not support you to make decisions within a value grouping. For example, if you had to choose between supporting a friend or a family member, and both friendships and family are in the same grouping this method might not help you.
Therefore it can be helpful to make a prioritised list directly from the set of values without grouping them. The questions in the example ‘Ask yourself questions’ above may be useful to judge the relative importance of the values.
Original exercise: Live Your Core Values (external)