What are values?
Essentially, personal values are your most authentic self, described in several short words or phrases. If you could name the five things that matter most to you in life, then your personal values should be an accurate reflection of those five things.
Why are values important?
- Frame every decision we make with a set of quality criteria
- Give us room to grow as a person, while still holding strong to a set of core beliefs
- Contribute to our personal brand – they shape the way we present ourselves to the world
- Provide a personal measure for meaningful success
- Lead to a happier, more fulfilled life – they give us a platform for purpose
How to define values
So we have a common understanding of values (please add to our shared understanding in the comments section below!) and we’ve got five reasons on the importance of values. The whole point of establishing a shared definition and importance is to understand the need for personal values – but this doesn’t help us in defining our personal values.
Here is a simple, but important exercise to start you down the path of defining your values – today.
Go to http://www.livingmore.org/wp-content/lm-documents/ValuesList.pdf . There you will find a list of 377 potential values. Start with these. Take an hour or so to narrow them down to 25 that mean the most to you. Think for a couple days about those values – carry a list of them around with you. Then take another hour to narrow them down to 10. Think about those for another day or so. Which of them are most important? Can you live these every single day of your life? How about 90% of the time? Now narrow them down to your top five. Are they permanent? No, but over time we can work towards a permanent set of values through which we can live an authentic life and change the world.
Living values vs. stated values
Now comes the hard part. Defining personal values is not easy, but it is a walk in the park compared to truly living those values day in and day out. Here’s the thing: its all about attitude and taking one day at a time. If excellence is one of my personal values, I can think about tackling each task with the absolute best of my abilities. Nobody can be their absolute best 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. But what if I am able to to accomplish excellence 75% of the time? Would I have even thought in those terms before I defined my values? Probably not.
We should use our values to make life decisions constantly. In my career design course I will include a case study on Enron and the difference between stated values and living values. Take a minute to Google Enron’s corporate values prior to their issues in the 2000s.
Stated values only take us so far – it is when we start living our stated values that they become important and take on true meaning.
Priorities change, values don’t
Once we have defined and refined our values, it is important that we feel comfortable living our values. Here is why: priorities will change throughout our lives. In our twenties we might focus solely on our career. As we near thirty our focus might shift towards marriage and settling down…. And on and on through life.
However, by establishing a set of core personal values in which we believe and by which we can live, we are doing our future self a huge favor: we are providing a lens through which to make our decisions. This highlights the importance of establishing values which reflect our authentic person – they can be and should be a guiding light for the rest of our days if done correctly. With ever-changing priorities, a solid set of values can keep us true to our purpose and true to our beliefs.
Values come first
I start the tag line with values for one reason: I believe values should shape our every decision and provide a heightened sense of fulfillment. They form the way we pursue our passion, they shape our goals through which we reach for our dreams, and ultimately they affect the way we make the decision to change the world.
What are your values? What id your perspective on the importance of values? Do you believe that values can shape our decisions to provide a more fulfilled life? Please comment and lets have a conversation