Your friend needs your help because he just broke up with his partner. But you still have to finish an important project at work that your boss wants by tomorrow.
What do you choose: your friend or your work?
We make decisions like this every week. They define our lives. But why do we choose a certain way? Often, our head goes on autopilot, not thinking about our decisions deeply. We do not realize if they fit our inner compass, our values.
Deep down we measure if our life is in the right direction by comparing it to our values. We can feel stressed out and emotionally dissatisfied if our unconscious decisions do not fit those priorities. We are losing meaning in our lives.
The solution: Make your decisions based on your values
That’s why I want to explain to you how to find your core values. One of the most intriguing exercises I did with my coach was learning how to find, understand and live by my values. It is a simple four-step process that was immensely helpful to me. I become more satisfied with my life after knowing my values and living true to them.
Step 1: What gives you a positive emotion?
Start by answering these questions:
What organizations or people do you admire? What values do they represent?
Reflect on the big decisions or changes you have made during your life. What values do they emphasize?
What hobbies or activities do you have? What is essential for you in doing them?
Which stories in movies, books or in real life light you up and why?
In this part of the exercise, pay extra attention that you are not picking up somebody else’s values.
Listen to yourself. If you watch a movie or read a book and experience shivers, tears of joy, excitement or other extreme emotions they are good signs you are onto something. Just make sure the emotional connection is a positive one.
But there is also a benefit in discovering values that you do not approve. They often are the opposite of your own values.
Step 2: Narrow down your core values
Keep in mind that our values evolve over time together with us, so you don’t need to be worried that you are locking yourself in with the “wrong values.” You have the power to change them at any time; after all, they are yours.
When you start listing your values, keep in mind that usually, it is best to have a maximum of six values. You might want to keep the number even lower. This way you keep up your focus when making decisions.
Through this process I found my values to be:
- Progress & Development
Step 3: Prioritize your values
Once you know your values, you can prioritize them to find out which values are most important to you. An excellent way to do this is to place the values against each other by asking yourself:
“If I lived in a world where there was only [insert value 1] and no [insert value 2], could I accept that?”
“If I lived in a world where there was only “progress” and no “family,” could I accept that?”
When your answer is yes, then the first value is more important to you than the second one. If your answer is no, then the second one is more important. Go through all your values comparing them to each other, and you will find out what values genuinely drive you.
Step 4: Put your values into action
Knowing your values can be a game-changer. It will help you make sense of your past decisions and help you make more educated choices in the future. This way your decisions can create more meaning for your life.
When you know what you believe in, it is easier to align belief and dedication with your actions. You can find the right career, your partner in life or which hobbies to have.
Now go out there and find your first value. Then let us know in the comments below what you discovered and how you did it. I would also love to hear your feedback and any questions related to this post in there.
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