Values! (Insert yawn and glazed over eyes here). I get it. I totally used to feel that way whenever the topic of values came up in school or training on the job. I used to think there was nothing more boring. Oh, how wrong I was! Now, values are one of my absolute most favourite topics. So please bear with me.
Values play a crucial role in who we are as people. And whether you're aware of it yet or not, decisions you make on a daily basis, the way you conduct yourself, things that make you happy and even things that push your buttons and leave you fuming are all influenced in great part by - you got it - your values. Values can be defined as our principles or standards of behaviour. They are things we feel are important in life. Personal values vary greatly from person to person.
Values can be divided into two groups:
1) Values that are your values because you feel they have to or should be your values, maybe because society, your parents, or teachers told you so. You may feel that you have to value certain things in order to avoid negative consequences in your life.
2) Values that you want to be your values because they matter to you, they improve the quality of your life and you feel they make your world a better place.
I would argue that many of us have some values in both categories. Of course, the goal is to live life more consciously and by choice, so it would be ideal to have all of our values fall into the second group.
Now here's the really interesting thing. Any value can be either a have to value or a want to value. So "adventure" or "loyalty" can be have to's for one person and want to's for another person. Even more interesting, "adventure" or "loyalty" could previously have been have to's for an individual, but can later become want to's for that same individual following reflection and a mindset shift. So basically, there is no such thing as a good or bad value. The significance lies in examining how your values are working for you and what role they play in your life. How much are they keeping you safe from fear and negative consequences you are trying to avoid and how much are they supporting you in moving towards the things that you really want in life?
Having a clearer awareness of your values can really help you understand yourself better. This knowledge provides insight into: the reasons you've made certain decisions in your life (anything from your chosen career path to who you follow on Instagram); your behavioural tendencies and patterns; and can account for the reasons that certain things make you happy whereas other things annoy the hell out of you. Using this awareness of what you value is also super helpful when trying to make a tough decision. When conflicted between several potential courses of action, if you are clear on what your highest ranking values are, you can choose the option and course of action that best honours those values. When you make decisions this way, they often feel right and that pesky feeling of guilt is less like to show up.
As an example, let's say that being dependable is one of your top values and connection with friends ranks lower on your values list. Imagine that you're faced with a scenario where you've promised a colleague you'd help them with their resume that night but then a friend invites you to what sounds like an amazing party. You might be in a tough spot if you didn't recognize that this situation is a values conflict. You'd be in an even tougher spot if you didn't know what your values are. Without this awareness, you may have made a decision that would have left you feeling guilty later on. But because you are so self-aware and you know the importance of being dependable to you, you can more easily decline what would have been a great time with friends, confident that you made the right decision for you despite the fact that your friends are likely quite disappointed that you can't attend the party.
Values are extremely personal and there are no rights or wrongs with them. What gets us into trouble is when we don't recognize that everyone has different values. We often feel that our values are right and we can't understand when people don't operate in accordance to our values. Take the scenario I presented before. If you valued connection with friends more than being dependable, you might have asked your colleague to reschedule. If your colleague's values aligned with yours, there would be no conflict and you may even have invited him or her along to the party. If, however, your colleague's values were at odds with yours, that person would likely have been hurt or annoyed by your choice to cancel your arrangements and go to a party instead. They may even have judged you as being unreliable and flaky. Take a minute and ask yourself the following questions: When in your life have you judged someone because their values differed from yours? Which of your values did they violate? What personal values might they have been honouring?
Are you on the values train with me yet?? If so, give this exercise a try.
1) Google a list of values so you have a reference point.
2) Choose your top ten values from the list. Feel free to add any values that you have that aren't on the list you found.
3) Figure out whether each one is a want to or have to value for you. If you're having trouble figuring this out, try asking yourself why this is a value for you. Take being dependable as an example. Do you value it because you love being someone others can rely on and it brings you joy to be there for others (want to) or do you feel that being dependable helps avoid conflicts with others and makes you well-liked (have to)?
4) Now reflect on your list by asking yourself some questions. How interested would you be in having more want to's and less have to's in your top ten? How would you like to live more in accordance with your top ten every day? If you had to tighten up your list, what would your top five look like? These are just a few suggestions for reflection with your values list. The possibilities and opportunities in this exercise are limitless.
So go nuts and have fun with this!! I'd love to hear how it all went and what you came up with. One of my top values is connection with others, so please keep me posted :)