How to Identify Your True Values in Life
Why Knowing What’s Important to You Will Make Everything Easier
If you’re like most people, you may have not learned how to identify your true values in life.
It is not uncommon for people to not know or have a deep understanding of their values. We often focus on what we’re programmed to value through our upbringing.
What Are Values?
Personal or core values define what we consider important, useful or worthwhile. They are principles by which we live and give meaning to our lives.
Our values allow us to stay persistent when we are going through tough times.
Values clarify what matters most to us, which often aligns with how we spend our time and what we give our attention to.
For example, if someone has identified health as a personal value, they will be more conscious of what they eat or drink. This doesn’t mean they will not falter. It means they are more likely to move away from a habit or practice that is not one of their values.
Why Are Values Important?
Our values are an integral part of our identify. They represent who we are and what we stand for. They often highlight our uniqueness and what makes us special.
When we are living our values, we are congruent with who we are and who we want to be. This is because our values influence our behaviour and gives us our own code of conduct.
When we are not living our values, we often don’t feel good about ourselves. We know we are not in alignment with what’s important to us, which means there is a disconnect between who we want to be and who we are being.
The clearer we are on what we value in life, the better our chances of living our lives that’s aligned to what’s best for us.
What Prevents People Living Their Values?
Common reasons why people don’t live their values include:
- They have not defined what they value most.
- They are living other people’s values or expectations.
- They don’t have a high level of self-worth.
- They don’t know the importance of defining their values.
- They don’t know how to live their values.
The Costs of Not Living Your Values
If we don’t live our values, things that can happen include:
- Making wrong decisions.
- Investing time, energy and other resources into things that may not be valuable.
- Experiencing confusion, which can lead to frustration and disappointment.
- Lower levels of meaning, joy and happiness.
- Behaving in ways that are uncharacteristic, which can affect relationships.
Knowing how to identify your true values in life will make everything easier, without confusion or overwhelm.
How to Identify Your True Values in Life
There are different ways to identify your true values in life. No one way is the only way or the right way. Use these steps as a guide to get started, which you can refine later.
Here are the steps you can take to identify your true values in life.
- Allow yourself to contemplate. During this time, recall moments or experiences in your life where you have felt you were being you or were true to yourself. These can be experiences you shared with others or on your own. Capture as many of these experiences as you can.
- Identify themes or commonalities. Based on your experiences from the first step, look for common themes. For example, you may find adventure and travelling on your list. These could become a common theme. Look for as many commonalities as you can.
- Choose what resonates most. As you grow and evolve, what you value can also change. For example, in a person’s teenage and early working life, being involved in sports and socialising may be important. As they grow older, those may not be as important. Therefore, from your themes in the previous step, choose what feels right to you. Aim to keep it less than seven.
- Specify what your values mean. From what you came up with in the previous step, describe what it means to you and why it’s one of your values. For example, if adventure is one of your values, you can describe what adventure brings to your life and the difference it makes. This step is about internalising your values and owning them.
- Define markers that reveal how to live your values. Once you have your values defined, now you want to identify what would be happening if you were living your values. Using the value of adventure example, how would you know you are living that value? What would it look like? You may say you take at least two trips a year to places you have never been before.
You shouldn’t fear getting this wrong. Your values can evolve over time. The key is to have fun with the process.
Knowing what you value, even if it is not 100% accurate, is better than not knowing any of your values. If you clarify your values, you will find everything you do in life easier.
If you don’t identify your values, you won’t always be true to yourself, which can cost you mentally, emotionally, financially and physically. It’s much better to know what you value in life.
Action Step: The more time you spend on this, the more accurate what you come up with will be. As a starting point, schedule up to two hours to go through these steps. If you already know your values, review and update them if you need to.
Question: What are other factors to consider if you want to identify your true values in life?