Know Your Values to Deal with Dilemmas
If you are a common Joe like many of us, you are dealing with dilemmas at each step in your life. Each of us has our own set of core values that is as unique as our thumbprint. These core values determine what’s really important to you as an individual.
The surprising thing is, if you ask you will find many people are unaware of what their core values are and hence would not be able to give you an answer.
Often it’s because they’re unclear on what their core values are and what’s most important to them. Our values help determine our tastes, way of life, entertainment, and social, political and religious interactions. We hold many values, each of which is liable to change as we grow and reach different stages of life.
Many people arrive at a point in their life to find their core values have been suppressed, compromised or ignored completely. For some people, a conflict can arise within them because rather than living a life according to their own core values, they’re living a default life trying to live according to the values of a company, a religious or political organization or their friends, colleagues or partner.
In doing this, the values of other people or organizations are being met but the person’s own values are being left unfulfilled.
Consequences of Not Knowing Your Values
There’s an immense cost to not knowing what’s most important to you and also not having clarity around your core values.
It becomes very easy to let external demands and society’s conditionings determine your life. The result is you feel your life has lost its direction, meaning and purpose. Feelings of discomfort and dissatisfaction increase, coupled with a growing restlessness around the need to change something, although you’re not sure what.
This is a high, yet common, price to pay in today’s society. Look into most organizations and you’ll find a large proportion of the work force spending 50 plus hours a week doing work they hate, not knowing what else they should or could do. You know it’s time to reconnect and close the gap when:
- You feel stressed and a sense of being out of control
- You feel conflict or are torn between the different facets of your life
- You’re excessively busy with every minute crammed with stuff but feel like you’re getting nowhere
- You feel drained from constantly rushing to tick off your to do list that just keeps getting longer
- You feel regretful about what you have done in the past
The Missing Link
Try to see what you are spending your time on and then compare them to the things you consider are really important to you, your core values. Do you think the two are aligned?
Not at all! Many of us will discover a gap (usually one big enough to drive a wide lorry through) between our core values, the things we stand for, and what we are currently acting on.
Now, it’s simple, we’re either living a life by design, or we are not! Closing the gap between what’s important and how you spend your time is the key to making your life more fulfilling and to free yourself to live to your highest potential.
So what’s the starting point to closing the gap? To simply stop and think! With our busy lives this is easier said than done.
Why You Should Know Your Values?
There is good news in all this. Yes, you can change all of this, and the best starting point is to get in touch with your core values. Fulfillment and contentment lives on the other side of their discovery and integration. By investing time and energy to get clear on your values and life purpose, by defining and articulating what you really want from all areas of your life, and then letting your values govern your decisions, you will live a fulfilling second half of life.
In mid-life it’s essential to question our value system and be prepared to make alterations for the next part of our journey.
Discovering your Core
We are going to apply three C’s formula to a better life.
Step 1 – In a blank piece of paper or your journal write at the top ‘My Core Values.’ Then answer this important life question:
“What, in life, is most important to me?”
Write down whatever comes into your head. Do not edit or make any judgments at this stage. Just write everything down no matter how weird, strange or amusing it may appear.
Step 2 – Now ask yourself, “What does the “value word” mean to me?”
For example you may ask, “What does money mean to me?” To which the answer could be, “money means achievement, security, or freedom.”
When you answer this question you uncover your core or underlying value. In this example money is the means to being an achiever, or being more secure, or being freer. These are the core values.
Step 3 – Choose 5-7 values from your total list. These should be the things that are the most important to you in life. Now put your list of values into an order of what’s most important to least important.
To do this put each word on a separate piece of paper. Now lay all the pieces of paper out in front of you. Looking at all your values ask yourself this question, “If I had to live my life without one of these values, which one would I give up?”
This is often a difficult question to answer because all these values are important. Push yourself to choose and put the one you’re letting go off to the side.
Keep asking this question until you’re left with your most important value. Now you have your hierarchy of core values, put them in a place you can see them every day. Write them in bold, bright, big colors.
Make them large enough so that you can see them from across the other side of the room.
Step 4 – Rewrite your top three values in order on the blanks below. Next, write a definition, a statement of what it means to you to be successful in living that value. At the end of your life, looking back, how will you know if you’ve been successful in that area?
If ‘Freedom’ is one of your values, how will you know you’ve been successful in achieving the freedom you so desired? If you say ‘Happiness’ what does that look and sound like to you?
“Success to me means . . .”
“Success to me means . . .”
“Success to me means . . .”
Now merge the three paragraphs together into one overall statement. It could be several sentences, a paragraph or even a poem! Do this now before you carry on.
Great stuff! You have just created a core values creed for your life.
Your creed will reflect who you are and what’s important to you. Let your creed become your benchmark, your standard of the best you. Using it will help align your behavior to your core values. Measure yourself against it and continuously ask yourself if your current activity is moving toward your vision of the good life.
As an example, if taking care of my health is important to me, and I eat eight slices of pizza, drink two cans of Coke, and remain glued to a TV for five straight hours, then I’m living a life in-congruent with my values. There is a clear violations of integrity that my values demand.
Step 5 – “How does my current life, work, and relationships reflect my core values?” This question will
In the course of next few weeks you will find out how much you are living your core values or personal mission statement. Track the way you are spending your time. Each time you do something that fulfills one of your core values write it down. By the end of the week you should have a few examples under each of your core values.
A Note of Caution
It’s perfectly common for some to find that their core values are not in sync with the way they’re living their lives. This can often be the most uncomfortable part of the exercise. Often closing the gap between your core values and the way you currently live your life requires big life changes. I don’t recommend anyone do that without professional help or at the very least a good support network.
Knowing your core values will be a great way to begin 2015 (If you don’t know already).
All the best as you begin to take back control of your life and live it being true to yourself.
What do you think? All comments are welcome!
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